SPRAYING IN CALIFORNIA FOR WEST NILE/ CONTROVERSY
Calif. Public Meeting on West Nile Erupts Aug 24 2005 6:40 PM US/Eastern
A public meeting about the use of pesticide sprays to combat West Nile virus took an unexpected turn when angry residents drove government officials from the room and took over.
Officials tried to set strict ground rules for the session, which was called to answer concerns about possible ground and aerial pesticide spraying to fight the mosquito-born disease. The tactics have been widely used in neighboring Sacramento County, which has reported 70 West Nile cases, nearly a quarter of all the cases this year in California.
Written questions were to be submitted by audience members and read by Davis Mayor Ruth Asmundson and Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson to a panel of officials and experts.
About 30 minutes into the session, audience members revolted against the format, arguing that residents should be able to speak. Asmundson abruptly halted the session and directed the panel to leave the City Hall dais.
Opponents of the spraying took over the meeting and quickly restored order. They elected as their leader a local woman who had caught the virus.
The audience asked about the effectiveness of the pesticides and the possible long-term health effects, but the questions went unanswered because the scientists and government officials had left.
Asmundson and Thomson eventually returned to listen, and the meeting ended nearly on schedule with a polite round of applause.
Dates for spraying in Davis and Woodland, Yolo County’s two largest towns, have not been set.