June 22, 2017

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Opinion

What's with the drop in buffer zones?

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/7/2014 (1072 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Depending on weather conditions and what the new trap counts say this morning, city crews may well begin a second round of fogging for nuisance mosquitoes later tonight.

In the leadup to the fogging of malathion down Brandon streets, the city is once again accepting buffer zone applications until 7 p.m. for each night of the application in the north and south areas of the city.

And as usual, those who have already successfully registered a buffer zone from last week’s fogging do not need to re-apply. We would also note, there can be very good medical reasons why individuals or families request a buffer zone around their properties.

While we expect a few people may make applications before tonight’s and tomorrow’s deadlines, we have noted a significant drop in the number of buffer zones that were registered last week, compared to numbers in 2013.

In July of last year city councillors overruled the mosquito abatement program advisory committee, which had been dragging its heels to spend time and cash on mosquito fogging — even after trap count numbers exceeded the fogging threshold on the city’s Adulticiding Factor Analysis guidelines. As a result, city crews fogged on July 17 and 18 last year.

At that time, there were 174 registered buffer zones that had a 100-metre radius around properties. These numbers are further broken down to 88 registered buffer zones north of Victoria Avenue and 86 buffer zones south of Victoria.

Though there were recommendations to consider a second round of fogging last year, council decided to do one application and continue with the larviciding program. Ultimately, a second round of fogging never materialized.

This year has been a bit different. With changes to city regulations in place and fogging triggers now automatic, city crews were out fogging the streets last week as a matter of course, without the need for an intervening hand from Brandon councillors.

And not only are the buffer zones now down to 90 metres — that’s as low as the city can go because of federal rules governing malathion use — fewer Brandonites bothered to register a buffer zone on their streets.

Numbers provided to the Sun on Monday afternoon show that there were 108 registered buffer zones before the 7 p.m. deadline for fogging last week Friday. North of Victoria Avenue, there were 49 buffer zones, and 59 on the south side.

These numbers are even lower than the 125 buffer zones counted across the city in 2010 when the city fogged for mosquitoes.

Trying to rationalize why these buffer zone numbers are so low is difficult, as we don’t have enough data to provide specific answers. And so we are left to guess, at best.

Perhaps fewer people are concerned about the effects of malathion, after having experienced last year’s application. Perhaps the ongoing flood during this time period — or other issues — drew the public’s attention away from the fogging issue, and people simply forgot to register.

Either of these are plausible explanations.

But this year also marks the first time that the city requires all those who request buffer zones for a specific address to provide proof that they live at that location. In 2013, there was no such requirement, a situation that was ripe for abuse.

Anyone could have emailed the city and given a false address, and no one would ever be the wiser. As we noted a year ago, entire streets could have fallen under a buffer zone just because one or two people decided to play the system.

This is precisely why Winnipeg implemented a similar policy in 2011 that forced anyone applying for a buffer zone to provide proof of residency.

“Really the reason we did it is that we were concerned that people were putting in buffer zone requests for residences that they didn’t live at,” Winnipeg communications officer Tammy Melesko told the Sun last year. “In order to verify that they did indeed live at that residence then we required a form of identification.”

Whatever the case, we’re glad to see the City of Brandon listened to reason and implemented the new proof of residency requirement. It’s the best way to ensure that those who actually need buffer zones get them, while allowing the rest of the city a bit of relief from the summer bloodsuckers.

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