Larvicide to Be Banned at Test Site in 2018

A small step toward curtailing the use of methoprene, a mosquito larvicide, in the Town of East Hampton was taken this month when the Suffolk County Department of Public Works agreed to work with the town trustees and other town officials to that end.

On Dec. 8, Francis Bock, Tyler Armstrong, Jim Grimes, and Bill Taylor of the trustees met at Town Hall with Kim Shaw, director of the town’s Natural Resources Department, Tom Iwanejko, the county’s director of vector control, Gil Anderson, the county public works commissioner, and Legislator Bridget Fleming. There, it was agreed that the county, town, and trustees would work together toward wetlands management and education efforts, with the goal of reducing or eliminating use of methoprene, which the trustees fear is harmful to nontarget aquatic species including lobsters and crabs.

Historically, the vector control division uses helicopters flying at low altitudes to apply methoprene and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti. At the urging of Ms. Fleming and the trustees, however, the county and town are planning a three-year trial, starting in 2018, in which methoprene would not be applied to a specific area. The county would continue to take larval samples from the area to determine if mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, and other diseases, can be controlled without methoprene.

“It’s a very, very small step,” Ms. Fleming said yesterday, “but it’s the first time there’s been a specific goal of reducing or eliminating the use of methoprene in the plan. Knowing how challenging it is sometimes to change past practices in government, I feel that, even though it’s a very small step, it’s an important step forward.”

At the urging of commercial fishermen, Connecticut prohibited the use of methoprene in coastal areas in 2013. Fishermen and environmentalists in New York have long advocated a ban, and the town board has repeatedly voiced its opposition to methoprene to the county.

At their meeting on Monday, the trustees considered sparsely populated areas that could serve as a test site. Mr. Armstrong suggested a western section of Napeague, a marshland area bordered by Napeague Meadow Road, Lazy Point Road, and Napeague Harbor, to which his colleagues largely agreed. “I’m all for this as a way to move forward and get a working relationship with them, so that in the future we can work more to craft a plan . . . that’s more tailored to our region,” he said, citing fisheries and wetlands. “But I think we need to show them that we can do something here to get some credibility under our belt with them.”

The county also applies methoprene to marshlands around Accabonac Harbor, but, said Rick Drew, a trustee, a trial prohibition there might be difficult because of extensive residential development. Diane McNally, a trustee and the body’s former longtime clerk, suggested that the group solicit public comment as to a suitable location.

It was agreed that the trustees’ aquaculture committee would be tasked with identifying a location for the test site, while also receiving comment from the Natural Resources Department.

“There’s a lot more work to do here,” Mr. Armstrong said, “but if we keep this going and stay on it, we can make some headway on this issue that we could not in the past.”

In the meantime, though, on Dec. 12 the Suffolk Public Works, Transportation, and Energy Committee approved its 2017 work plan, which includes aerial and ground application of methoprene. That approval, however, followed Ms. Fleming’s move to table the adopting resolution at a Nov. 28 meeting, as it did not include the goal of reducing methoprene use. The full Legislature approved the 2017 plan on Tuesday.