PITTSFIELD — The City Council voted Tuesday to stop performing truck-mounted mosquito-control spraying through the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project.
The council stopped short of pulling out of the control project entirely, as Finance Director Matt Kerwood noted the towns of Becket and Stockbridge have done. The city will continue to receive mosquito-prevention measures from the project, but will end its use of the truck-mounted mosquito spraying, said Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, who petitioned for the change.
The petition addressed “the spraying going around in neighborhoods,” he said, while leaving other measures in place.
“It has nothing to do with the larva base control or the catch basins,” he said.
Councilors expressed concern about health effects of mosquito spraying, referencing a Boston Globe report from January about the Environmental Protection Agency recognizing that toxic compounds were leaching into pesticides used for the program from containers, packaging that the manufacturer said it would stop using, the newspaper reported.
Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon, chair of the council’s committee on Public Health and Safety, recommended this month that the city opt out of the mosquito-spraying program. Moon said the spraying has harmful health effects.
Also a concern for councilors was the cost to the city of participating in the control program, which Kerwood said is projected at more than $154,000 for the coming fiscal year. Kerwood said he did not believe the city’s assessment would fall by choosing not to participate in the truck-mounted spraying portion of the program.
“Our assessment won’t change,” he said. “It’s the price of participating in the program. So, I wouldn’t see that that assessment would go down.”
Despite the council’s move, there still could end up being mosquito spaying in Pittsfield, according to a councilor and city Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta. State leaders in the area of mosquito control have the authority to order spraying when the state Department of Public Health determines there is an elevated risk of mosquito-borne illnesses in the community.
“I think you need to make that perfectly clear to the residents, that even if we opt out [and decide] not to spray, the state’s going to dictate whether we do or not,” he said.
The move comes after a group calling itself Residents Against Poison Spraying pressed the council to stop “publicly funded pesticide spray activities in Pittsfield,” according to its Facebook page.