The Lewiston Town Board on Monday gave the go-ahead to an aerial mosquito-spraying program despite concerns expressed by Town Supervisor Fred Newlin, a representative from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the town Environmental Commission.
Newlin was outvoted, 4-1, as the board approved spending $46,000 for two sprayings. The first spraying is expected to begin between July 30 and Aug. 6, and the second would take place three weeks later, both by Duflo Spray Chemical.
The proposal to spray has the support of the Lewiston Village Board and will include spraying areas in both the village and the town.
The town Environmental Commission had voted unanimously against spraying solely for the sake of comfort.
Bradford Brown, a state DEC pesticide-control specialist, said spraying adult mosquitoes should be the last resort.
"I don't think you have an imminent public health threat (from West Nile virus)," Brown said. "A human case would constitute a public health threat."
James J. Devald, Niagara County director of environmental health for the county Department of Public Health, said a public health threat was declared by the county in early June for state aid purposes after a bird was found with West Nile virus in May in Newfane's Krull Park. However, he said, no cases of the virus have been reported in humans.
Devald said that since May, there have been no other cases of West Nile virus.
"The mosquito problem has absolutely been worse this year. We've had no trouble collecting mosquito samples. There's lots of data but no other positives," Devald said.
Devald said the DEC would like to be consulted so it could evaluate the effectiveness of a spraying program by collecting mosquitoes before, during and after spraying.
Devald and Brown said education of the public is important so that people can take steps to avoid standing water, which breeds mosquito eggs.
James Allen, chairman of the town's Environmental Commission, said it was frustrating that the board would choose to ignore the panel's advice.
"It is an emotional issue. The citizenry may not fully be aware of how limited the impact of spraying can be," Allen said. "People want an instant solution. We'd like to see a long-term solution."
Councilman Daniel Kilmer said, "Waiting for the county to declare a health issue is like putting a fire alarm in a burning building. We should be able to enjoy our town's assets without getting all bit up. We should spray for comfort, and we can also avoid West Nile virus. We are in an aging community, and this disease affects our older populace."
Councilman John Ceretto agreed. "We've been talking about this for nine years," he said. "Spraying is a natural step. I'd hate to see one person pass away."
The board agreed to allow Newlin to seek some collection/surveillance from the county to determine whether the spraying is successful.
"Maybe after the surveillance reports, I'll change my mind," Newlin said, "but without them, I'm afraid it's like closing your eyes, aiming a gun and hoping you drop an assailant."