“Remember the dragonflies in your malathion dreams, where humans spray mosquitoes from pickup truck cannons. They always get under your skin, the buzz, buzz, buzzing, mechanically amplified. When you get agitated, remember the dragonflies.”
— Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival poet laureate shayne avec i grec
“For those that are outdoors when the spraying truck goes by, studies have not shown any evidence of harmful effects within the short term or expected to be a problem in the long term.”
— Joel Kettner, Manitoba’s former chief medical officer of health, on CBC
While the buzz might have been turned down for a while after several rounds of fogging and a cooler than normal weekend, the sound of skeeters will surely be ringing in our ears again before this summer sets.
We’re pleased with the city’s new fogging policy that automatically triggers rounds of spraying when mosquito trap counts reach certain levels. We’re also aware that larviciding is an effective way to slay the skeeters before they become airborne. However, with this year’s record rainfall, that program has been a washout.
So as you’ve read in a number of Sound Offs in the Sun, Brandonites are clearly divided over both the need for, and the size of, buffer zones in which the fogging trucks must cease spraying while cruising the city.
We expect this to be an issue during the fall municipal election. It already is in the mayoral tilt in the provincial capital.
Winnipeg mayoral candidate Gord Steeves says he’ll convince the province to reduce the buffer zones for mosquito fogging to 40 metres from the current 90 metres, as reported in the Winnipeg Free Press. He also wants city-wide aerial spraying every few years to combat mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.
Brandonites will recall seeing low-flying aircraft spraying the entire city back in the 1980s.
Looking ahead in Winnipeg, Steeves would also ensure residents could only register for buffer zones based on medical reasons — not simply as a preference.
“For the benefit of the greater good, choices must be made,” Steeves said. “The will of the larger majority should carry the day.”
Buffer zones are mandated by the province to prohibit the malathion mist from being applied 90 metres on either side of the registered property.
Taz Stuart, a former City of Winnipeg entomologist, stung Steeves’ plans when he told the Free Press there are physical reasons why the buffer zone can’t be reduced. Malathion mist drifts for 90 metres when applied from the back of a moving truck.
The health concerns of malathion are constantly being debated — by poets, professors, pundits, ordinary people and medical practitioners. Health Canada says malathion is safe for humans when applied properly by professionals, but many people refuse to accept that position.
The anti-spray set is mostly comprised of people who, for personal or political reasons, just don’t want to be sprayed. They might not trust Health Canada, or simply have strong personal beliefs.
However, we suspect many are engaging in a bit of sneaky community activism as well — they just aren’t being good neighbours for whatever reason.
And they can play their games in complete secrecy, since buffer zone locations aren’t made public.
Well, as we reported earlier this year, there has been a significant drop in the number of registered buffer zones, compared to numbers in 2013.
So what changed? This year marked the first time the city required all those who request buffer zones for a specific address to provide proof they live at that location. In 2013, there was no such requirement, a situation that was ripe for abuse. Winnipeg has had the residency requirement since 2011.
We have since heard stories of buffer-zone abuse, such as people who spend their entire summer at the lake, but still registered their properties as a no-spray zone. That means several of their neighbours who could want some relief from the flying pests must continue to find their own ways to deal with the issue.
Richmond Ward Coun. Stephen Montague has stated that adding a medical requirement to a buffer-zone request is gaining some traction in the community.
There can be very good medical reasons why individuals or families request a buffer zone around their properties.
We believe that’s a common-sense next step to take in this bug battle.
Requiring a medical note is surely an easier fix than the nonsensical decision of our election-brained council to lobby the province to allow individual municipalities to decide the appropriate size of buffer zones.
The federal — repeat, federal — label for this product cites a 90-metre swath as a regulatory requirement for the proper use of malathion. Period. It ain’t gonna change. But council’s motion is a classic political manoeuvre to make it look like our city fathers and mothers are listening to us whiny kids — taxpayers covered in red welts from the hungry bugs — and taking some firm action.
It will have zero results. But it nicely shelves the issue until after the October election. The best way for city council to address the buffer-zone brouhaha is simply to require a medical note — as well as proof of residence — from anyone wanting to place their home on a no-spray list.
It will still mean their neighbours won’t get sprayed, but we are pretty certain it will drastically slap down the number of buffer zones across the city.