Hayden reaches solution on mosquito management debate: Aerial spraying to resume Monday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The town of Hayden has announced plans to resume aerial mosquito spray starting Monday evening. The news comes after intense debate over health and environmental concerns surrounding the practice.
On June 10, the town announced on its social media that aerial spraying had been put on hold after some residents made complaints to the company with whom Hayden contracts to conduct the spraying.
During the next Hayden Town Council meeting on June 18, officials discussed alternatives to the pest mitigation program and invited the public to make comments. And they did.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one member of the public could enter the meeting at a time. The rest lined up in the parking lot. Staff installed speakers outside, so the people waiting could listen to the meeting.
“It was probably the most attended meeting since I’ve been here,” said Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco, who has worked for the town for the past three years.
A recording of the Town Council meeting on Facebook received 241 comments as of Wednesday afternoon, which showed varying opinions on how the town should handle mosquitos.
A group of residents, calling themselves the Hayden Community Alliance, opposed the previous aerial spraying program on several grounds. They presented their views during the Town Council meeting. Among their list of reasons to oppose aerial spraying were concerns the chemical used poses health risks, from higher risk of autism to cancer, and has harmful effects on other species, including mosquito predators.
Emily Gerde, a member of the Hayden Community Alliance, said in the presentation that she wants more say in how the town manages pests.
“It is our right as voting citizens to determine what is sprayed on our properties,” Gerde said
The active chemical the group singled out, permethrin, is a registered pesticide under the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA described permethrin as the most widely used mosquito adulticide in the U.S, due to its low cost and high efficacy. According to a report from the EPA, about 2 million pounds of the chemical are used annually for agriculture, residences and public health.
The agency further describes permethrin as a “weak carcinogen” that is more toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates. The risk of these effects can be mitigated, the EPA continues, and it has provided guidelines and restrictions to do so. Overall, the agency says the pesticide is a useful tool for pest management.
“Given the significance of the use of permethrin and the mitigated nature of the risks of permethrin, the Agency believes, on balance, that the benefits of permethrin outweigh the risks,” the EPA said in the report.
As Mendisco said, the majority of Hayden residents have voiced support for aerial mosquito spraying to reduce the number of pests in the area. As they argued, the practice has been going on for decades without egregious side effects.
In acknowledgment of the concerns over spraying, Town Council decided to switch to a new contractor, Vector Disease Control International, which has a regional headquarters in Denver.
Council also opted to switch to a less harsh chemical, called naled. This also is a registered insecticide under the EPA. In a report on the chemical, it doesn’t expect it to cause any health concerns for humans, and it poses minimal risk to wildlife.
In a unanimous vote, Town Council members approved a new, integrated pest management program using naled. Pest management will include the treatment of standing water in an attempt to reduce mosquito larvae.
The town plans to use the money it saved from not conducting the first spray to hire a biologist to study the efficacy of the new program annually.
Aerial spraying is scheduled to begin after 7 p.m. Monday, but that could change depending on wind and weather conditions. For more information, call Hayden Town Hall at 970-276-3741.
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With multiple area agricultural reservoirs at extreme lows and some predicted to drop to only streams running through reservoir basins by fall, some fish populations could be threatened during this time of drought.