Governor Baker recently filed a bill (H.4650, “An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth) that would give state authorities dangerously broad authority to eradicate mosquitoes through means that include chemical spraying.
H.4650 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, even if municipalities do not want mosquito spraying in their towns. The bill will allow the Mosquito Control Board to do this work based on a determination from DPH that there might be an elevated risk of mosquito borne disease in the next year. Once passed, this bill has no sunset clause. Without oversight, transparency or coordination with other agencies, this bill could do more harm than good.
Please join us in opposing this legislation by sending an email to the legislature before May 11th at 5 pm. Please direct your email to Jay.Newsome@mahouse.gov and Brian.Rosman@masenate.gov and include “PUBLIC HEALTH TESTIMONY” in the subject line of the email. Please be sure to also include your name, title and organization (if applicable), address, and telephone number of the person submitting testimony.
Suggested language for your email:
“Dear Senator Comerford and Representative Mahoney,
My name is ______________ and I am from ____________, Massachusetts. I am concerned about the implications of H.4650, An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth. I ask that at this time, the Joint Committee on Public Health send this bill to study. My concerns for the bill include:
- This bill is too broad. The way the bill is currently written, there is no minimum threshold for when EEE spraying determinations will be made, 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. The bill would also overrule decisions made by municipalities to not join a regional mosquito control district because they don’t want nuisance mosquito spraying. This bill would also overrule private property requests for exclusion from spraying. Inadvertent impacts from spraying are not considered.
- There is no transparency on the decision making process in this bill. 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 bill fails to define the science, data, or health concerns that would trigger future spraying.There is no information about how actions will be taken and determinations will be made for EEE spraying, and there is no role for local boards of health or environmental groups in the legislation.
- There are no requirements for notifications to communities or property owners prior to spraying. There is no information on the effectiveness or trigger points for spraying or other actions. At a time when more and more people are growing their own food and reducing chemical use around their yards and gardens to help pollinators, this is a step backward and an intrusion on property rights.
Thank you for your time and consideration.”
Want to learn more about this issue?
What is EEE? Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is an extremely rare but serious and often fatal infection that causes encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. It is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with EEE virus. EEE can cause severe illness and possibly lead to death in any age group; however, people under age 15 are at particular risk.
Why are we concerned about broad EEE spraying? According to the national Centers for Disease Control and US Environmental Protection Agency, spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective, and most environmentally damaging, method. We support 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.
How should we be dealing with mosquito control? We support a scientifically based mosquito-borne disease management program in Massachusetts that protects public health, while minimizing environmental and public health risks associated with some forms of mosquito control. The existing programs for mosquito control in Massachusetts are antiquated and fragmented, and reform is needed. Blanket spraying of pesticides is not the answer. State leaders must focus first and foremost on precaution and prevention for mosquito control. Safe mosquito management emphasizes education and judicious larvaciding in targeted areas (i.e. catch basins) with known biological controls, and only considers pesticide use as a last resort.
Want to learn more? Check out these great FAQs and educational resources provided by our partner and member organization Mass Audubon.