Senator Jason Lewis’ West Nile Virus Prevention Legislation Signed Into Law

Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce that Governor Deval Patrick, in one of his last acts as Governor, signed into law Senator Lewis’ legislation to strengthen municipalities’ ability to combat the mosquito-borne disease West Nile Virus.

Senator Lewis’ legislation returns to municipal public works employees and seasonal workers the authority to apply relatively non-toxic pesticides into storm drains and catch basins to control 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.

The legislation comes with an “emergency preamble” provision, which means that the law takes effect immediately, allowing municipalities to begin planning for the 2015 mosquito season with the policy fully in effect.

“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.  “This legislation returns to municipal officials the authority to use the tools at their disposal to safeguard the public health for residents of our cities and towns.”

With a surge in cases of West Nile Virus in recent years, public health advocates and municipal officials have been calling for the restoration of this policy.

“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.”

“Restoration of the catchbasin larviciding permit will allow the state and municipalities to respond quickly if we experience a recurrence of the events of 2012 when state officials recognized by early July that a high risk of West Nile Virus was developing,” noted David Henley, Superintendent of the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project.

“On behalf of cities and towns across the state, we applaud Senator Lewis for his leadership in enacting this important legislation to enhance public health and safety,” said Geoffrey C. Beckwith, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.  “Thanks to Senator Lewis and his colleagues in the Legislature, communities now have the authority and ability to effectively reduce the spread of and exposure to West Nile Virus — simply put, this new law will save lives every year,” Beckwith said.