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Public Health and Safety Panels Votes Against Pittsfield Mosquito Spraying

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council's Public Health and Safety Subcommittee on Thursday voted against continuing the city's involvement in the mosquito spraying program.  
The matter will be discussed in Monday's Board of Health meeting and then voted on by the City Council on Tuesday.
"I filed this petition because a lot of individuals from the community had great concern about the toxins that were found in the spraying program," Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said.
"Just the point of when they come around your neighborhood, and they tell you to cover your garden, cover your air-conditioner vents, and close your windows. That's a red flag to me, that means that they are doing something that is harmful to individuals themselves."
Councilor at Large Yuki Cohen and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi were not in attendance for this meeting. The motion passed 2-1 with petitioner Maffuccio and Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon voting in favor and Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell voting in opposition.
Mosquito spraying has been a topic of debate for about 10 years. Members of the public have expressed ongoing concern regarding the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project and specifically its use of adulticides to combat the disease prevalence of Triple E (Eastern equine encephalitis) and WNV (West Nile Virus).
The city began spraying in 2010 when the council voted to contract with the project, which serves 10 communities in the Berkshires. According to a working group of city residents, "Residents Against Mosquito Spray," the process was done without formal presentation or consultation with the Pittsfield Department of Public Health or Board of Health.
The following year in 2011, the decision was reversed, and then reversed again. In the summer of 2014, a local petition opposing mosquito spraying with more than 300 signatures was submitted to former Mayor Daniel Bianchi.
Pittsfield is one of eight communities that participates in the spray mosquito control; recently Becket and Stockbridge opted out. In 2020, Berkshire County and most of Hampshire and Franklin County were identified as either a low or remote risk level for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, according to the state's Department of Public Health.
In 2018, three mosquitos tested positive for West Nile virus and prompted spraying.
"The past nine or 10 years I've been a councilor and my word is really split right down the middle as far as 'yes' spraying and 'no' spraying," Connell said. "Maybe we come up with an alternative solution, targeted spray spraying seemed to have worked but people still apparently still aren't happy with it."
Moon echoed Maffuccio's concerns with the advisement of closing windows for mosquito spraying.
"I remember having this debate two years ago and that they were adamantly saying that there is no risk and yet we give this warning that you should close your windows and what a lot of the data shows is that there's an increased risk for people who have respiratory issues," she said.
"Right now, as we are in the middle of a pandemic, that is largely respiratory is a virus that is affecting our respiratory drives and is impacting our breathing capacity, it seems like we are not sure where the risk and benefit are in terms of such a low risk that we have with Triple E and increasing the risk factors that contribute to COVID."
Director of Public Health Gina Armstrong reported that the city made modifications to the pragmatic spray criteria in 2019 that aims to appease residents' concerns.
"There was only one spray response during the summer of 2019, a total of two gallons of product was used because it was so targeted and restricted to those areas where there was an elevated risk because of the type of mosquito species and the number near the high volume of mosquitoes that would put the city at higher risk," she said.
"But it was very isolated to a particular area and then last year, in 2020, it was such a dry season there was no spray response necessary, we didn't have any positive samples of West Nile virus, or Triple E last year so I just want to emphasize that we adhere to strict criteria for a survey response and it's used as sparingly as possible, as demonstrated in the last year."
Two Becket residents called into this meeting to voice their opposition to the spraying, Selectmen Vice Chair Michael Lavery and resident Dean Lagrotteria.
Lagrotteria said Becket has been trying to get rid of the program for "quite some time" and has had issues with the management and communication from the Berkshire Mosquito Control Board and whether or not it is properly following regulations in terms of notifying residents.
"Let's face it," Maffuccio said. "The science has proven once again that this is something that community should not be doing."

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Greylock and Credit Union of the Berkshires Agree to Merger

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Greylock Federal Credit Union and Credit Union of the Berkshires (CUB), both of Pittsfield, have reached a definitive merger agreement subject to the approval of the CUB membership and regulatory agencies.
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