Trustees to State Opposition to Methoprene

The Suffolk Legislature is expected to soon decide on the county’s 2018 vector control protocol, directly affecting the methods used by the Department of Public Works in an attempt to reduce the number of mosquitoes in Accabonac Harbor and elsewhere.

Last year, the department agreed to try an experiment aimed at reducing the aerial application of methoprene, a mosquito larvicide, in the harbor, rather than institute a ban. It called for the identification of “hotspots” that could be precisely targeted for spraying.

At the urging of the East Hampton Town Trustees and Legislator Bridget Fleming last summer, Stony Brook University interns collected water samples from the harbor, which were analyzed for mosquito larvae, and spraying occurred based on the results.

At their meeting on Monday, Kevin McAllister, the founder of the environmental advocacy group Defend H2O, urged the trustees to reiterate their opposition to the use of methoprene. The county used methoprene and Bti, a biological agent that is believed to be harmless to nontarget species, over approximately 18,000 acres in Suffolk last year, Mr. McAllister said. The 2018 vector control plan, which includes the use of methoprene, will make its way through the Legislature’s Council on Environmental Quality next month, he said. He predicted that the council would approve the plan, after which it will move to a public works committee and, in December, the full Legislature for a vote.

 “I will continue to register opposition to this pesticide again deployed directly in the marshes,” he told the trustees. 

As he has stated previously, Connecticut banned methoprene’s use in coastal areas in 2013, New York City restricted its use near Jamaica Bay in 2001, and Rhode Island has restricted it adjacent to Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound. These jurisdictions all rely on Bti, Mr. McAllister said. “When you consider the stresses on our water bodies . . . this is an insult that really needs to end.” 

Rick Drew, the trustees’ deputy clerk, spoke of “some modest success” with the method implemented last summer and suggested continuing it as an incremental approach to ending aerial spraying of methoprene, should the county vote to approve its continued use next year. Tyler Armstrong, a trustee, agreed. Larval sampling to identify hotspots should allow precise targeting with Bti instead of spraying a wide swath of marshland with methoprene, he said. 

“I have an interest in revisiting what went on this past season,” Mr. Drew said, “and looking at how that might be able to be leveraged.” Through that effort, an area that is hand-treated with Bti rather than sprayed with methoprene via helicopter could be expanded, he said. 

Diane McNally, a trustee, suggested that Mr. Armstrong draft a statement on the trustees’ opposition to methoprene that would be forwarded to the Legislature.