The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 20, 2000


ConsCom opposes drive-by spraying

The conservation commission authorized chair Carolyn Kiely to draft a letter to the selectmen and board of health expressing their opposition to "drive-by spraying" of larvacide in response to a potential West Nile virus threat. The action on October 12 was a direct result of advice from commissioner and Allandale Farm manager John Lee and visiting Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) circuit rider Gillian Davies.

The DEP representative emphasized that neither the agency nor the local commissions have legal authority in the spraying matter, but pointed out that significant counts of the dangerous mosquito larvae lurk in storm drain catch basins and other protected standing sources not in open water and wetlands. She said therefore, the department advocates starting a program by eliminating the threat from these hidden breeding places, rather than indiscriminate spraying of neighborhoods and wetlands. Commissioner Christine Gaulden, who was one of the two people to find infected dead crows in Carlisle, added that she had learned that crows have a 200-mile flight radius, and her specimen could have come from as far away as New York City.

The DEP assessment was buttressed by a report from Lee who, as a farm manager in Boston, had worked with the Center for Disease Control and Middlesex Mosquito Control to search his acres for larvae haunts. Urging "a more logical approach," Lee informed his colleagues that the target insects are not common anopheles mosquitoes, but rather the culex variety that requires a specific larvacide and breeds only in sheltered, no-flow puddles, such as those found in old tires, catch basins, blocked gutters, etc.

Lee reported further that the inspection at Allandale had turned up larvae only in small puddles in the recesses of a tarpaulin used to cover lumber. Therefore, he felt a good approach would be to drop easily available briquets infused with the correct larvacide into likely breeding areas. His specific recommendations for Carlisle were the following: that the department of public works (DPW) clean out the town's catch basins, that someone from that department be sent to a training session in effective control measures, and that the general public be urged to eliminate stagnant collections of water on their property. Those recommendations, plus a request that the spraying issue not be included as an article in the Town Meeting Warrant, will constitute the gist of Kiely's letter to the two responsible town boards.

New circuit rider program

The DEP consultant was in Carlisle to introduce the agency's new circuit rider program that has been set up to support local commissions, provide speakers and hold workshops. The first general event in the Sudbury/Assabet/Concord Rivers watershed will take place October 31 in Concord at the department of planning and land management on Keyes Road. Wetlands section chief James Sprague will introduce the new beaver control act and discuss common problems. A more technical field training session on soils is scheduled for October 24 at 9 a.m. in the Bedford Town Hall.

Davies fielded a number of questions previously forwarded to her by ConsCom, starting with the status of man-made bodies of water. She advised board members that the Wetland Protection Act (WPA) does not distinguish between man-made and other bodies of water, but for a commission to have jurisdiction, the feature in question has to meet state criteria for Isolated Land Subject to Flooding. CAN WE BRIEFLY DESCRIBE??If it doesn't, they have no authority.

A second question concerned the felling of trees in a wetland buffer zone. Members were told they could "make the call," if the trees in question constituted a hazard. They also would have a fairly free hand in permitting or denying if, in their opinion, the activity would "alter" the wetland. "It's really a matter of translation," Davies said. Some commissions are stringent and others lenient; the only caveat is to document their decisions carefully.

Most important to the commission was a request for a walk-through of enforcement procedures. Salient in Davies' approach was the attitude of the violator. When the commission is first informed of a violation, the first step is to investigate to make certain the problem really exists. If it does, the guilty party should be approached in a friendly way and, if he or she is cooperative, the problem can usually be rectified painlessly. A contrite transgressor can be asked to come to a meeting and explain what has happened; unfriendly types can be handed an enforcement order. Davies said an enforcement order is preferable to submission of a Notice of Intent (NOI), since the latter can be appealed relatively easily while questioning an enforcement order must go through a court procedure.

In any event, a board can put a time frame on a request to appear, its length being dependent on the nature of the infringement. The violator is then informed exactly what he is expected to do, and in what time frame. If there is a subsequent failure to comply, a fine is levied. Davies indicated that, if at any point in the process the guilty party is uncooperative, or if the violation is "egregious," an immediate fine can be levied commensurate with the seriousness of the infringement. Under the WPA, that fine can be as high as $25,000 per day, although Davies said the DEP would probably have entered the fray before it reached that level.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito