Letter to the editor: Mosquito district chairman clarifies ‘misinformation’

As a long-term member of the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen Mosquito Control District, or BLSG, 1990-2019, and currently chairman, I’ve been appalled at the amount of misinformation, the lack of civility and personal attacks on myself and your fine editor Angelo Lynn.
Much of the misinformation and half truths are being posted by the litigants: Chris Fastie, Wally Bailey, Woody Little, and two Leicester residents and others, who have been influenced by much of the misinformation on Chris Fastie’s webpage, “Moosalamoo Woods & Waters.” It is akin to the fluoride debate and the anti-vaccinationists debate — half-truths and misinformation.
Here are some clarifications to correct that misformation:
1. On Aug. 14, 2017, the BLSG submitted notice of intent (NOI) and its pesticide discharge management plan (PDMP) to the state Agency of Natural Resources (ANR).
On Sept. 8, 2017, the agency took public comments on the plan.
On May 15, 2018, the state responded to 15 comments submitted by the Toxic Action Center (TAC) and others, and also approved BLSG’s and NOI and PDMP and authorized discharge of pesticides under our Pesticide General Permit (PGP).
Unhappy with the results, the Toxic Action Center filed an appeal of the state’s authorization of our permit PDMP on behalf of the aforementioned litigants.
2. In good faith BLSG went into negotiations with TAC, but their bucket list of requests was long and included elimination of the use of all adulticides, except in the declaration of a public health emergency.
That would mean no treatment for the nuisance mosquitoes that interrupt the enjoyment of our wonderful outdoor environment, and which seriously impact the amount of tourism dollars that come into our communities.
Many local citizens can attest, and have sent me letters, to the effectiveness of our adulticide program in controlling nuisance mosquitoes.
3. BLSG has a balanced integrated pesticide management program, has a balanced public education effort, and a diligent approach to the application of larvicides and adulticides.
BLSG has approximately 7,000 acres of floodplains, wetlands and marshlands where 45 different species of mosquitoes breed and hatch. The Alameda County mosquito control district in California also has approximately 7,000 acres of treatable mosquito habitat. Their budget is $5 million, and they have 25 full-time employees. Our budget of approximately $158,000 pales in comparison.
Our cost for a helicopter aerial treatment of 3,000 acres — less than half of the area in the Otter Valley floodplain — runs $120,000 including materials and personnel. We have been working with our legislators to increase the appropriations for our larviciding program.
Our budget for adulticide chemicals is only $20,000. The rest of the budget is in fixed expenses and insurance and personnel costs, maintenance, etc.
4. Contrary to a recent posting by Salisbury resident Rebecca Holmes, my wife did not have equine encephalitis, but a viral encephalitis which at the time the hospital was not able to identify. We had an early hatch of mosquitoes that year and she recalls being bitten.
5. The BLSG is a municipal corporation, organized under state statues approved by the voters of the five towns (Pittsford joined the district a few years ago). Each town has two representatives to the board and an alternate. It was the decision of the board, through your representatives, to support the lawsuit. A decision not to support the lawsuit would have shut down our operations.
6. We have steadily tried to improve our public relations. All minutes are posted on our website at blsgmosquito.wordpress.com — and sent to town clerks. A great deal of other information can be found there with links to both state and federal agencies.
This has been a free website, however there are annoying pop-up ads and we will be changing to a new website in the near future that should be better.
All meetings are open to the public. Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month, 7 p.m. at the Stephen Douglas building in Brandon. The only time that we go into executive session is to discuss personnel or the recent lawsuit negotiations, contrary to a recent posting.
7. Contrary to rumors circulating, I have had no contact or conversations with Mr. Angelo Lynn, editor of the Addison Independent, since last August, and that was not in regards to the BLSG.
8. It is true that the BLSG was founded in 1979 to control nuisance mosquitoes. In 2002 (I believe), in response to the West Nile epidemic, federal money was received by the state of Vermont and an additional assistant entomologist was hired to map out the breeding sites in the state, especially the Otter Creek flood plains. Most mosquito control districts throughout the United States fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health. In Vermont, we are under the jurisdiction of the Agency of Agriculture, Market and Foods.
This agency controls and permits the use of all pesticides in the state of Vermont. We have, and continue to have, a good relationship with this agency and appreciate the work that they do for us; however, we do feel that our funding is inadequate to do the amount of larvicide treatments that we believe are necessary to better control mosquito populations in our district.
8. Climate change is happening now. Our winters are getting shorter and warmer, and the total rainfall in Vermont has increased 7 inches over the past 50 years; summer rains have increased in intensity and have caused costly flood damage in many communities. This increased flooding in the Otter Creek floodplain leads to increased mosquito hatches. See (climatechange.vermont.gov).
And tick and mosquito-borne diseases will rise! (Also see: healthvermont.gov/disease)
9. There is also a tremendous amount of accurate information on mosquito control on the EPA website and the CDC’s websites (cdc.gov/westnile/vectorcontrol/aerial-spraying.html).
10. I could go on. However, I do agree with opponents that we need to do a better job of getting the message out as to what we do and why we do it. We will have an increasing emphasis on public education and we will re-institute a weekly newsletter this season: The Brandon Buzz.
Thanks for your continued support.
Dr. Benjamin Lawton, Chairman BLSG

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