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Berkshire Mosquito Control Gearing Up For 2019 Season

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City Council President Peter Marchetti is asking that the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project be more proactive.
 
The request comes after the Board of Health agreed last year to limit the number of adulticide sprayings. Marchetti particularly called for more catch basin treatments, citing that in 2014 and 2015 there were 3,922 and 3,820 catch basins treated respectfully whereas in 2017 and 2018 those numbers dropped to 3,460 and 3,407.
 
"It is my hope that since this conversation is still early in the mosquito season that we can do much more to address this issue not only to assist with the public health threat but also to keep focused on preventative means to allow for better quality of life," Marchetti said.
 
The Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project has been embroiled in debate for a number of years. There is one camp that believes strongly in the spraying, citing significantly high numbers of both mosquito population and disease being carried, and another camp that opposes the use of chemicals, questioning the safety and effectiveness of adulticide spraying.
 
Last year, those in opposition went to the City Council and asked for the funding for the program to be cut. That had followed multiple unsuccessful attempts to get the Board of Health to end the spraying in previous years. 
 
Carol Messerschmitt lives on Brunswick Street, which she described as "the heart of mosquito country." The neighborhood near the Housatonic River had significant mosquito numbers last year and the project found mosquitos in the area carrying West Nile Virus.
 
"I don't like chemicals but I also don't like seeing diseases crop but that could be prevented," Messerschmitt told the Board of Health on Wednesday, saying the spraying for adult mosquito is the most effective way to reduce the populations.
 
Sharon Shields lives on nearby Kenilworth Street. She said if she had known the mosquito were in such high numbers there when she first bought the house, she wouldn't have.
 
"We wouldn't have bought the house had we known what we were getting into," Shields said.
 
Shields and Messerschmitt both described intolerable levels of mosquito in the area last year. And the numbers were high. Berkshire Mosquito Control Project Superintendent Christopher Horton said last year was "a record year" for mosquito populations and diseases.
 
"We have many, many West Nile isolations. It was a record year. Actually statewide it was a record year for West Nile Virus," Horton said.
 
Horton said 171 mosquito samples collected in Pittsfield last year were tested for the presence of arboviruses and there were 25 isolations. In response, 9,897.1 acres of land were sprayed with an adulticide to kill the adult mosquitos that could be carrying the disease.
 
As for preventative, Horton said the catch basins are treated as needed. He said staff goes to all of the catch basins and treats the ones that are wet. He said the number of catch basins treated "does fluctuate" from year to year.
 
But for Shields and Messerschmitt's neighborhood, Horton said there is little preventative work that can be done. He said behind that neighborhood stretching from Fred Garner Park to Holmes Road is an oxbow and there is another one on the east side of Holmes Road stretching south and into Lenox. He said there are thousands of acres in that general area as mosquito breeding grounds.
 
Along the floodplain throughout waterways is where mosquito eggs are laid. When it floods, all of of the mosquito hatch at once and take to the neighborhoods. Last year, the project received so many complaints that it set a new trap in the area to count the actual population.
 
"We recognized there was a high mosquito population and we wanted some data to bring to the board," Horton said.
 
That trap had found an isolation of West Nile Virus, according to Horton, and will now be permanent. 
 
As for the rest of the city, Horton said the project has done a lot of work with the city's drainage infrastructure. He said the biggest preventative measure is killing the larvae and in some areas, the drainage work has shown to reduce populations and diseases significantly.
 
"We have done a lot with drainage work in the city and that has already paid benefit in certain areas," Horton said. "Basically what we are trying to do is increase water quality, increase water movement."
 
Horton outlined last year's operations. He said there was flooding in April, kicking off the season, which tends to be when the organization has a head start on controlling them. It stayed dry until mid-July and it stayed wet for the rest of the season. By the middle of August, the organization was seeing significantly high numbers.
 
It is too early to treat for 2019, Horton said, but the 2019 program was approved by the Board of Health. The board, however, also asked for Horton to consider other ways to monitor and control in hot spots such as the roads off of Pomeroy Avenue.
 
The program starts with the cleaning and treating of catch basins and then it entails monitoring. 
 
"After that, it depends basically on the weather," Horton said 
 
Six traps are placed throughout the city, particularly in known hot spots, to monitor the populations. The Board of Health agreed last year to a protocol for spraying that outlines certain landing counts of different species known to carry the virus and the finding of diseases present as reasons to spray. Once those are hit, the project will use the adulticide truck-mounted spray in that area.

Tags: board of health,   mosquito,   mosquito spraying,   

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Pittsfield Mayor, City Council Urged to Adopt 'Housing First' Model

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

The Rev. Ralph Howe of First United Methodist made three suggestions regarding homelessness to the Human Rights Commission.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Human Rights Commission is urging city officials to establish housing as a fundamental human right.
 
The Rev. Ralph Howe of First United Methodist Church outlined three suggestions to commission on Monday on how to best address the homeless epidemic and purposed a move toward Pittsfield adopting a housing first model.  
 
"Housing is a fundamental human right, if you have been housing insecure or have dealt with people who are homeless you will realize that when a person lacks housing they are driven to survival modalities," he said.
 
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