Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce the passage in the state House of Representatives of his legislation to strengthen municipalities’ ability to combat the mosquito-borne disease West Nile Virus.
Senator Lewis’ bill would return to municipal public works employees and seasonal workers the authority to drop non-toxic pesticide pellets into storm drains and catch basins in an effort to eliminate breeding grounds for Culex mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus. Between 2001 and 2009, public works employees were authorized to use pesticides in this manner; but, in 2010, the Department of Agricultural Resources opted not to renew that authorization, leaving licensed professional pesticide applicators as the only authorized population.
“It is critically important that our communities have the tools needed to proactively combat the spread of serious diseases like West Nile Virus,” said Senator Lewis. “My legislation will simply return to municipal officials the authority to use the tools at their disposal to safeguard the public health for residents of our cities and towns.”
“The passage of this legislation is very important for public health in that local government will be allowed to directly provide critical protection measures to control mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus,” said Jennifer Murphy, Director of the Health Department for the Town of Winchester. “This prevention service will be provided in a timely, cost-effective and safe manner, and is a critical step in protecting public health by reducing the risk of these mosquito-borne diseases.”
With a surge in cases of West Nile Virus in recent years, including two Massachusetts residents’ deaths attributed to mosquito-borne diseases in 2012, public health advocates and municipal officials have been calling for the restoration of this policy. Having passed the House, the bill now awaits action in the Senate.