Anthony Texeira, superintendent of the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project, said “extremists” against aerial spaying misunderstand the necessity of it, not to mention the science behind it. While the control project focuses on spraying from trucks, Texeria said aerial application is far superior because it covers areas inaccessible by any vehicle.
Easton’s Hockomock Swamp, a prime breeding ground for EEE-infected mosquitoes, is about 16,000 acres, and spraying from trucks penetrates only 5 percent of it, he said. Or take the town of Middleborough, which is filled with wetlands. If a spray truck hits every street, only about 15 percent of the town is covered, he said. “We could do it by hand, we could do it by truck, or we could do it by plane. Which do you think is better? It’s obvious,” he said.
However, Jack Kittredge, policy director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, said it is foolhardy to spray chemicals over large areas without providing more information about the impact on humans and the environment. “What is the downside of this?” he said, wondering out loud what impact the pesticides will have on exposed fruits and vegetables.
“In the past, aerial spraying was a one-time kind of thing, but now it looks like it might happen more regularly because of the mosquitoes getting worse and we are concerned,” he said.
Since 1990, aerial spraying has occurred during five summers in Massachusetts — involving a single aerial spraying three of those times and two sprays set a few weeks apart the other times.
A recurring broad application of toxins is bound to affect the natural world, according to Kathleen Frisbie, founder of the Place for Wild Birds Inc.
“Aerial spraying is a knee-jerk reaction that is going to have consequences in the future,” said Frisbie, a federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has worked with birds in the Taunton area for 20 years.
“I see a kind of hysteria around this issue without enough reflection about the long-term consequences of spraying,” said Frisbie, who recently wrote to the governor to request he disallow it.
Back in Easton, Bennett said that on Aug. 8, she filed a public records request to secure proof that aerial spraying works. The state health department responded in a letter she received Friday. It offered Bennett access to 850 pages of documents for $1,050. The response was hardly the succinct, data-driven explanation the public deserves, said Bennett.
Meg Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.