Helicopter Spraying Continues Despite Town Opposition

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works’ Division of Vector Control conducted aerial application of mosquito larvicides at salt marshes on the South Fork including Accabonac Harbor and Napeague yesterday. Weather permitting, the application is to continue today.

Also to be treated yesterday and today were Jagger Lane, Apacuck Point, Moneybogue Bay, Westhampton Dunes, Meadow Lane, North Sea, and Stokes Poges, all in the Town of Southampton. The county is also applying the larvicides at locations in Riverhead, Southold, Brookhaven, Islip, Smithtown, and Babylon.

The vector control division is using helicopters flying at low altitudes to apply methoprene and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti. Both are registered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The county recommends no precautions for the aerial application as the helicopter flies at a low altitude. But the actions have angered some residents who are concerned about potential harm to humans and non-target species.

The East Hampton Town Board adopted a resolution in 2007 opposing the use of methoprene and asking the county to cease using it. In 2014, citing the importance of commercial and recreational fishing to the local economy, the board reiterated its opposition, stating that methoprene “has not been adequately tested and found to be safe in aquatic and marine invertebrates, fish, and zooplankton.”

Methoprene is moderately toxic to some fish and highly toxic to others, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, a cooperative venture of the Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon State University. It can accumulate in fish tissues, according to the center. It is “moderately toxic” to crustaceans such as shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish, the center says, and “very highly toxic” to freshwater invertebrates.

Residents who do not want their property treated for adult mosquito control can join a no-spray registry at the county’s website. The registry does not, however, cover application of larval control.

Current and future notices of vector control actions can be obtained by calling the vector control division at 631-852-4270 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m