Exchange on No Spray List Serve

In a recent exchange on the NoSpray mailing list, Dominick Ninivaggi, the head of Vector Control in Suffolk County NY, officially requested permission to join the list. Here is the request, his followup comments, and some of the responses.

Please post your comments to the list.


Dominick Ninivaggi of Suffolk County has applied to join this list. As list owner, I have no objection to his participation and would like to take him at his word. However, some people more active than I in the activist environmental community have concerns about his motives and have asked me not to let him on. here is what he wrote in answer to my question regarding his reasons for wanting to join the list. I will make a poll and you can all respond on the website, and I encourage discussion of this matter openly on the list:

Dominick Wrote

I am interested in what is going on in the activist community because I want to know what the concerns are out there, so I know how to address them. Also, on occasion I have seen references to studies and news reports that I want to look into further. You see, I am willing to listen to what others I disagree with have to say. If you want to exclude me from your group, fine, but you might consider what that would say about your commitment to the free exchange of ideas. As a public official, you’re entitled to know what I’m up to and how I go about my business. Do you believe in transparency for your community?
By the way, while I believe there is a time and place for the use of pesticides, you will find that I have also been (for almost 20 years) an advocate for wetlands management and restoration as a primary means of mosquito control here in Suffolk County. It’s ironic that some in the environmental community oppose this non-pesticide approach with the same vigor that they oppose pesticides. You might also be surprised to find that my program was among the first to use bacterial products like Bti.
Dominick V. Ninivaggi

Superintendent

Division of Vector Control

Suffolk County DPW

335 Yaphank Avenue ======OO08<—-

Yaphank, NY 11980

Voice:631-852-4270

FAX: 631-852-4140

dominick.ninivaggi@co.suffolk.ny.us

A FollowUP Is:

Thanks for letting me on the list. I have been a reader for about 4 years now. They say you need a thick skin to be in the mosquito control business, and after seeing myself compared to some of the all- time nogoodniks of the world, I’m glad I have one. I plan to simply listen, as always. We may not agree on pesticides, but the environmental community should seriously consider supporting what we have in mind for wetlands management. Last winter, we restored 43 acres of mosquito-breeding marsh at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. We have had no significant mosquito production, so we have not had to treat it all summer, and the wildlife use of the area is excellent. It’s a start.

I have thought quite a bit about whether I want to post on this list or not. As I said when I joined, I have been content to simply listen for years, and have passed up many opportunities to mix it up. I did get some interesting takes on the meaning of free speech. I feel an obligation to at least try once to say something constructive, so here is my take on the situation.


Another Followup Is:

Many of you have made it abundantly clear there is no possibility of changing your view that all pesticides are an unmitigated evil. So there doesn’t seem any point to any discussion to the contrary, but I already knew that. Conversely, there’s nothing out there that yet convinces me that modern, mosquito control pesticides cause serious problems when used properly. There’s plenty of evidence mosquitoes cause problems that have to be dealt with, somehow.

I am in the mainstream on this issue. We just seem to have an entirely different world view. In order to avoid a whole lot of unproductive argument, what do you say we agree to disagree on this?

Mr. Murawski correctly points out that Suffolk County Vector Control is not about me, personally. I handle technical stuff, and make policy recommendations, but ultimately, my job is to execute policies that are approved by the County Legislature and to operate at the direction of the County Executive. I try to point them in the right direction, but they hear many voices on both sides of the issue before they make up their minds. Check out the transcripts of the hearings. That’s democracy.

Suffolk County is currently preparing a $4.5M Wetlands Management and Vector Control Long Term Plan and EIS. Naturally, we have a Web site, www.suffolkmosquitocontrolplan.org. There a lot on the site about the program now, and as all the literature searches are completed and the plan is drafted and made available for comment, it will all be up there for anyone to look at. Feel free to check it out and comment. You don’t have to make your arguments to me, personally and on this list. All I can do is pass them along, so why not eliminate the middleman? You will also see that we are looking at alternatives, and I am personally very excited about the possibility of doing more wetlands restoration. I think that’s the best way for the program to reduce the need for pesticides.

I have to admit I got a laugh from some of the more extreme comments made about me on this list. Some of it, though, was frankly a bit disturbing. That’s why I feel compelled to remind folks about my place in the scheme of things. Insulting me and calling me some kind of criminal does not advance your cause. It makes you look foolish, actually, but hey, free speech and all that.

If you don’t mind. I’ll just listen from here on, but if you’ve got something of substance, at least you now know where to send it. As I have done in the past, I’ll pass along anything that looks interesting.


A RESPONSE TO THIS WAS:

>…<snip> > >If you don’t mind. I’ll just listen from here on, but if you’ve got >something of substance, at least you now know where to send it. As I >have done in the past, I’ll pass along anything that looks interesting.

Dominick,

I for one would prefer that you not just listen. It does not help anyone by having no dialog, or only by having dialogs in courtrooms. The longer anyone involved in this field remains closed-minded on either side of the fence, the longer the issues will remain unresolved.

When you have an opportunity, some questions you may wish to address; and frankly, I would like to hear a response on these items. I feel they are logical, rational and appropriate:

1. Aerial spraying.

a) Why is there no visible tracer added to the invisible substances being applied? Everyone, pilot included, needs to know and should know where the substances are going. A visible inert tracer (water?) would help in this respect.

b) When applying aerially to wetlands, are the tidal cycles being taken into account? For example, it makes sense to me to apply during incoming current, on a transition from low tide to high tide so substances are not carried out into larger waterbodies, and floating larvae will be on their way into the wetlands and not out.

c) Why are our local aerial applications not “announced?” For example, the inland applications we get here are always without warning very early in the morning, and frankly, many people sleep with (and have) their windows open. Granted that the mosquito population doesn’t vary according to schedule, but these flights are planned nonetheless, so the question is, when they are being planned, why can’t we be notified of them in advance using some (any) mechanism where residents can look (i.e. web page, pre-recorded message, etc). The type of material should not be a factor, and there are other concerns (d):

d) For example, my 7 year old daughter wakes up and comes crying when the helicopter goes past her window, and frankly, I have a fear of the helicopter crashing into mine or other neighboring homes. Is it necessary that these fly so close to residences?
2. I have lived here for well over a decade. You know that. Apparently, the mosquito’s natural predator count is in serious decline. Not citing a reason or correlation here, just asking this; Why doesn’t your department “seed” and repopulate wetland areas with frogs, turtles, etc., which are native to the area? Certainly this is a non-toxic method which doesn’t seem to be objectionable.
3. Town drains Where there are no sewers, Oakdale, Sayville, etc., we rely on drywells and percolation to drain rainwater into the ground. Here in the Town of Islip, there is little or no maintenance of street drains. (The very street drain you looked at on my street has never been cleaned by the Town, regardless of our numerous complaints.) The result is that many are caved in, clogged, or simply not functioning. You and I know well that the result of that isn’t good. As a matter of fact, it’s very, very bad for everyone as it relates to disease and west nile. Is there no way you and the health department can apply pressure at the Town level (perhaps via funding threats at the state level) to get the Town to fix the drains? To me, treating the drains isn’t the answer. It’s a treatment of a symptom. To me, the answer is to solve it with sewers or with proper maintenance.
4. The County’s Do-Not-Spray list Why do residents have to renew each year? It seems to me to be more paperwork and processing to have to do it each year. If it has to be renewed, then why not 5 years? I guess what I’m trying to comprehend here is if there is a reason I’m missing for the need to annually refile this form.
5. Tax Credits For everyone who purchases a non-toxic, proven technology to deal with mosquitoes (mosquito magnet, etc), why doesn’t the County Legislature authorize a tax credit or rebate for the purchaser. I use these in my backyard, and they work. They work quite well too. If there were an incentive for more people to purchase alternate technology, then I think they would. The result would be less of a mosquito population, and I believe that is what we all want, so could something like this be presented to the Legislature? If so, how do you suggest it be initiated? Through your office, through local Legislators? Do you believe this is a reasonable concept?
Now, that’s what I have to ask you at this time. We both know there are other issues out there, but those are emotional and scientific issues which are difficult and easily lead to disputes. I for one do not want to use this arena to dispute. I want to use this forum to discuss. I want to use it as a form for communication to make progress through very muddy water so to speak. Clearly, the items I am bringing to the forum here are non-threatening, and to me and hopefully to you too, they appear rational.
Can you address these please? And I ask everyone, regardless of your position to stand down. It makes no sense at all to initiate fury on this list. Once we lose our own rational process, we lose – period.

His FollowUP Is:

First, a disclaimer: I’m writing this on my own time, and the opinions I express are my own. They should not necessarily be construed as County policy. For that, you need to go through official channels. Still, I don’t mind answering a few factual questions:

> > Dominick, > > I for one would prefer that you not just listen. It does not help > anyone by having no dialog, or only by having dialogs in > courtrooms. The longer anyone involved in this field remains > closed-minded on either side of the fence, the longer the issues will > remain unresolved. > > When you have an opportunity, some questions you may wish to address; > and frankly, I would like to hear a response on these items. I feel > they are logical, rational and appropriate: > > 1. Aerial spraying. > > a) Why is there no visible tracer added to the invisible substances > being applied? Everyone, pilot included, needs to know and should > know where the substances are going. A visible inert tracer (water?) > would help in this respect.

We use GPS guidance in the helicopter, so the pilot knows where he’s been and where he needs to go. > > b) When applying aerially to wetlands, are the tidal cycles being > taken into account? For example, it makes sense to me to apply > during incoming current, on a transition from low tide to high tide > so substances are not carried out into larger waterbodies, and > floating larvae will be on their way into the wetlands and not out.

We apply larvicides after flood tides (spring or storm tides) to the higher portions ogf the marsh. Mosquito larvae can only survive above the daily tides. If we think the marsh is about to flood and wash the larvae out, we don’t bother to larvicide. Same thing if the marsh is almost dry and we don’t think the larvae will make it. > > c) Why are our local aerial applications not “announced?” For > example, the inland applications we get here are always without > warning very early in the morning, and frankly, many people sleep > with (and have) their windows open. Granted that the mosquito > population doesn’t vary according to schedule, but these flights are > planned nonetheless, so the question is, when they are being planned, > why can’t we be notified of them in advance using some (any) > mechanism where residents can look (i.e. web page, pre-recorded > message, etc). The type of material should not be a factor, and > there are other concerns

We apply larvicides early in the day near in marshes that are near houses because there’s usually less wind that time of day. This reduces drift into adjacent areas, and is safer for the aircraft in tight quarters. We don’t know ourselves which marshes need larval control until noontime or so the day before the spray, and if we delay to provide public notice, we could lose the opportunity to control them while they are larvae. We try to do our marsh surveys on Mondays, and treat on Tuesdays, so resident know what to expect, but we sometimes have to go on other days due to weather or tides. As you have seen, the aircraft flies on the deck and uses a large droplet spray, both to reduce drift.

(d): > > d) For example, my 7 year old daughter wakes up and comes crying when > the helicopter goes past her window, and frankly, I have a fear of > the helicopter crashing into mine or other neighboring homes. Is it > necessary that these fly so close to residences?

Sorry for the disturbance. If we don’t control the larvae close to residences, those residents will be the first to encounter the flying adults. As you know, helicopters come and go in a few minutes, while a bad mosquito infestation persists for days or weeks. If we ever get to do a wetlands project in that marsh, maybe we won’t have to treat it at all. I’ve got better stuff to do.

> > 2. I have lived here for well over a decade. You know > that. Apparently, the mosquito’s natural predator count is in > serious decline. Not citing a reason or correlation here, just > asking this; Why doesn’t your department “seed” and repopulate > wetland areas with frogs, turtles, etc., which are native to the > area? Certainly this is a non-toxic method which doesn’t seem to be > objectionable. > Fish are best biocontrol in salt marshes, and they work extremely well. We are trying to implement techniques that improve fish habitat in the marsh that other states use very successfully. This is not easy in New York’s highly regulated environment. Matter of fact, environmental groups made the County stop this type of work out until we did an EIS. We have done a 43 acre pilot project like this that has worked very well, and I think the Long Term Plan will call for a lot more of this. I happen to really enjoy doing this kind of wetlands management work. I think it’s time to stop “paralysis by analysis” and get on with this.

> 3. Town drains > Where there are no sewers, Oakdale, Sayville, etc., we rely on > drywells and percolation to drain rainwater into the ground. Here in > the Town of Islip, there is little or no maintenance of street > drains. (The very street drain you looked at on my street has never > been cleaned by the Town, regardless of our numerous > complaints.) The result is that many are caved in, clogged, or > simply not functioning. You and I know well that the result of that > isn’t good. As a matter of fact, it’s very, very bad for everyone as > it relates to disease and west nile. Is there no way you and the > health department can apply pressure at the Town level (perhaps via > funding threats at the state level) to get the Town to fix the > drains? To me, treating the drains isn’t the answer. It’s a > treatment of a symptom. To me, the answer is to solve it with sewers > or with proper maintenance.

Storm drains are a big problem, and you’re right, the Towns should do a better job maintaining them. Some towns that shall remain nameless are not exactly responsive either to their citizens or to the County. We can try to get them to do the right thing, but it costs money, and the County may not have a lot of leverage with a Town in this situation. This will be a big issue as EPA Phase 2 stormwater guidelines are implemented. Some of the recommended practices will make mosquito problems worse if they’re not maintained properly.

> > 4. The County’s Do-Not-Spray list > Why do residents have to renew each year? It seems to me to be more > paperwork and processing to have to do it each year. If it has to be > renewed, then why not 5 years? I guess what I’m trying to comprehend > here is if there is a reason I’m missing for the need to annually > refile this form.

The law requires annual renewal of membership. Because being on the list affects your neighbors, the law is intended to make sure list members are still at their addresses. Every year when we recanvass the list, we have dropouts. Personally, I like the no-spray list, it give the program something to offer people who object. I am always impressed how few members live in heavily infested areas.

> > 5. Tax Credits > For everyone who purchases a non-toxic, proven technology to deal > with mosquitoes (mosquito magnet, etc), why doesn’t the County > Legislature authorize a tax credit or rebate for the purchaser. I > use these in my backyard, and they work. They work quite well > too. If there were an incentive for more people to purchase > alternate technology, then I think they would. The result would be > less of a mosquito population, and I believe that is what we all > want, so could something like this be presented to the > Legislature? If so, how do you suggest it be initiated? Through your > office, through local Legislators? Do you believe this is a > reasonable concept?

I’ll leave tax credits to the legislators. I will tell you, I do not consider backyard traps to be a proven technology. They catch lots of mosquitoes, but whether they catch enough to make a difference is an open question. I have never been able to figure our what data one company uses to claim its product clears out a half acre. I even had one situation where someone had one under his house, which was raised on pilings. I think he was attracting mosquitoes to his house as fast as he was catching them. I suspect it’s very site-specific. In some places, I doubt they catch enough to help. Our consultants are doing a study on them, and let’s see what they say. Since I cannot tell someone whether they will work (catch enough to make a difference) in a given situation, I don’t recommend them, but maybe your situation is one of those where they help. How are your mosquitoes this week? They seem to be thriving elsewhere in Oakdale.

Rational discourse is good.
> > And I ask everyone, regardless of your > position to stand down. It makes no sense at all to initiate fury on > this list. Once we lose our own rational process, we lose – period.

Another Response IS:

Dear Mr. Ninivaggi;
I have studied and have been professionally involved in Mosquito control for over 35 years and suggest that you are wasting your money and killing many of your beneficial predators and injuring the public and needlessly contaminating the environment whenever you insist on applying mosquito adulticides – they simply do not work. If they did – there would be no mosquitoes – we have spent many hundreds of millions of dollars and have sprayed New York and the entire Country with virtually every POISON known to man starting with DDT for over 60 years – where is there any real reduction in Mosquitoes? Every living person now has DDT and/or its metabolites (and many other adulticides) in their blood and adipose tissue but, ………. we still have mosquitoes.
Whenever I compared the results of spraying adulticides to simply leaving nature to take care of the mosquito problem for over 35 years – I have always found that there were more mosquitoes after a spraying campaign than before the spraying started – this is because you basically kill only the predators and not the mosquitoes e.g., Cicero Swamp. But there always is some “professional/scientist” out there that continues to promote the use of POISON to “kill” adult mosquitoes. “Sound” science the use/misuse of volatile POISONS to “control” adult mosquitoes is not.
I suggest that if you ask the people who are paid to spray and/or those who advocate the use of DEET and Adulticide POISONS if they will be responsible for every case of encephalitis and/or West Nile Virus after they “spray” – no reasonable person would continue to spray or advocate the use/misues of volatile adulticide POISONS. If you could still find some “professional/scientist” to still advocate the use of POISONS – how many would apply them or advocate their use if you made them legally responsible for all chemical trespass and other contamination damages, and/or health problems their “safe” POISONS cause? Please read my Chapter on Mosquitoes at: http://www.safesolutionsinc.com/23_-_Mosquitoes.pdf . . you will notice that I did not call you any names.
Respectfully, Stephen L. Tvedten

His Reply Is:

Thanks for the input. We do efficacy work, and adulticides do kill mosquitoes. I agree they are only a temporary measure. We’ll have something on this in our Long Term Plan.

Dominick V. Ninivaggi
Superintendent
Division of Vector Control Suffolk County DPW
335 Yaphank Avenue
Yaphank, NY 11980
Voice:631-852-4270
FAX: 631-852-4140
dominick.ninivaggi@co.suffolk.ny.us

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