Stop Mosquito Spraying from Going Too Far

Update 7/23/2020: The revised bill has been signed into law by the Governor.

We’ll now be following its implementation closely through the state’s Mosquito Control for a 21st Century Task Force, which will include advocating for statewide reform of Massachusetts’ approach to mosquito control to improve environmental and public health practices.

Update 6/8/2020: The Joint Committee on Public Health has approved a completely redrafted version of the bill by a unanimous, bipartisan vote.

The revised bill no longer allows the Reclamation Board to override all state laws, and creates a task force to review and propose updates to the state’s mosquito control system, based on science.  It also includes notification and reporting requirements for aerial or other wide-scale pesticide applications. Mass Audubon supports these proposed revisions, and now the new bill is headed to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for further approval.

Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill by conservation groups and others made a big difference. While this redraft marks progress, we are also still hoping to see additional changes.

Loosening regulations around mosquito spraying could have impacts on our wetlands and water supplies

Original post: A bill is moving through the state’s Joint Committee on Public Health that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife, and counterproductive to public health concerns.

An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4650), proposed by Governor Baker, aims to address mosquito borne disease, but it goes much too far. The bill would exempt the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board from all state laws and allow them to conduct mosquito eradication measures anywhere in the Commonwealth.  This proposed change is based on a determination by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that there may be a threat of mosquito borne disease somewhere in the state in the next year, but this is too vague a standard to result in such drastic measures.

The way the bill is written, there is no minimum threshold for these actions to kick in, no opportunity for input from affected communities or landowners, and no expiration date.  The Reclamation Board would be exempt from all state laws, including Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law, Public Records Act, and environmental laws like the Endangered Species and Wetlands Protection Acts.

Mass Audubon supports the recommendations of the national Centers for Disease Control  and US Environmental Protection Agency calling for a science-based mosquito-borne disease management program, with the goal of protecting public health while minimizing environmental and human health risks associated with some types of mosquito control. Spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective, and most environmentally damaging, method.

Reform is needed for mosquito control in Massachusetts, since our existing systems are antiquated and fragmented. But this bill won’t achieve those reforms, instead giving more clout to the existing broken systems.

The proposed legislation is of particular concern at a time when many people are seeking to reduce their exposures to chemicals. More and more people are growing their own food and managing their yards and gardens with minimal or no pesticides, both to protect their own health and for the benefit of wild pollinators, which are in serious decline.  This bill would eliminate landowner’s rights to be excluded from routine pesticide spraying.

Monarch butterfly (Photo: USFWS)

Mass Audubon is opposing this bill at the State House and encouraging the Public Health Committee to reject it.

You can help by opposing the bill too.

Contact the Joint Committee on Public Health and let them know that this bill is too broad, putting wildlife and water supplies at risk, and that it lacks transparency by not providing a role for local boards of health or environmental groups.

All testimony must be submitted by email to Jay.Newsome@mahouse.gov and Brian.Rosman@masenate.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

Please include “PUBLIC HEALTH TESTIMONY” in the subject line of the email, and include the name, title and organization (if applicable), address, and telephone number of the person submitting testimony.

Thank you for speaking up!