WHEATFIELD – Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe proposed that the Niagara County Health Department should beef up its mosquito control program, since wet conditions have brought an insect problem in their wake.
Cliffe produced a written proposal at Monday’s Town Board meeting, calling for the county to include an insect control specialist in its 2014 budget, working with towns and cities to train their employees on how to detect mosquito habitats.
The specialist also would be in charge of arranging to test sample mosquitoes for West Nile virus and other diseases and helping to train municipal employees in applying pesticides, which the county would supply.
James J. Devald, county environmental health director, said his mosquito control officer retired and hasn’t been replaced. He said one Health Department worker is spending about one-fourth of his time on mosquito control. Mostly, he responds to complaints.
Devald said no additional hiring for that program is included in the Health Department’s 2014 budget proposal, to be presented to the Board of Health on Thursday.
“Each one of the municipalities can have a larvicide program,” Devald said, referring to the chemicals that kill baby mosquitoes. However, no town in Niagara County actually has such a program.
“Wheatfield used to do it, but that goes back a number of years,” Devald said. “They’d buy a supply of larvicide and pass it out to their residents, but you can only use it on your own property.”
He said the county always has been hesitant to spray pesticides from the air, preferring to spread larvicide at ground level.
Cliffe said he’s concerned because West Nile has been confirmed in Amherst, and since the Town Board meeting, a similar announcement was made in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario.
Devald said he’s certain that mosquitoes carrying West Nile are in Niagara County; they simply haven’t been discovered yet. He said the state Health Department has set up two mosquito traps in the Klydel Wetlands in North Tonawanda, near the corner of Ruie and Ward roads, just over the Wheatfield border.
County Legislator W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, who sits on the Board of Health, learned of Cliffe’s proposal from a reporter. He said he’d be interested in talking to Cliffe about it.