Targeted areas expanded in Dallas County aerial spraying



WFAA & Associated Press

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 9:21 PM

DALLAS - Areas to be sprayed tonight in Dallas County have been expanded to parts of Lake Highlands north of Interstate 635, the entire city of Garland, parts of Mesquite north of Interstate 30 and Richardson.

Spraying will take place in a 106,000 acre of Highland Park, University Park and parts of North and East Dallas, the Center for Disease Control reported. In the afternoon news conference, Jenkins said that area will include parts of Mesquite north of Interstate 30, the entire area of Garland and the entire area of Richardson.

On Thursday, planes will spray pesticides over Dallas, Highland Park and University Park between 10 p.m. through around 1 a.m. Specific areas to be sprayed include area bounded by Interstate 635 to the north and east, the Dallas North Tollway to the west and Interstate 30 to the south.

In a yet-to-be-determined night to follow, South Dallas will be sprayed, as will Addison, Mesquite, Coppell, Carrollton, Richardson, Farmers Branch and Garland. Sachse and Irving opted out of aerial spraying.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins now says the city is expecting an injunction to be filed against aerial spraying in Dallas County.

While Jenkins earlier said the injunction had already been filed with state attorneys, in an afternoon news conference, he later said both Mayor Mike Rawlings and himself received letters threatening to file a temporary restraining order on aerial spraying. Jenkins said he believed a filing could be made later in the afternoon.

"We got a credible threat in a letter from a law firm or group saying they would file a lawsuit," he said. "... Information that I received was that the suit was filed, actually I received that information twice. No lawsuit has been found by our people at this point."

Jenkins said as a lawyer, he believes the filing could happen close to the end of the day in a strategic move "when it's too late for anyone to respond." However, he said he believes any injunction will not be granted due to the state of emergency declared for the area.

Jenkins said the movement to stop the spraying isn't just aimed at the aerial plan, but also at the ground level as well.

"The CDC told me Friday when I made the decision to request the planes that the time that we wait can be counted in additional West Nile cases and human life," he said. "But, we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that no temporary restraining order and no lawyer makes the decision for the people of Dallas County."

Meanwhile, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden said they will close early at 5 p.m. because of tonight's spraying.

Nearly half of all West Nile cases in the United States so far this year are in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the trend continues, 2012 will be the worst West Nile year in state history.

Nearly half of all West Nile cases in the United States so far this year are in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the trend continues, 2012 will be the worst West Nile year in state history.

The hot, dry weather across the nation's midsection has created ideal conditions for mosquitoes. The heat speeds up their life cycle, which accelerates the virus replication process, and any standing water in drought-plagued places is turned stagnant -- their preferred breeding ground.

Because of the severity of the outbreak, the Texas Health Department is stepping in to oversee the effort and to pay for it.

"This year is totally different from the experience Texas has had in the past," state Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said. "If it's nuisance mosquitoes, we ask the city or county to pay part of that. But in the midst of this disease outbreak, it's easier for us to go ahead and do it."

A national spraying company called Clarke was set to deploy two to five Beechcraft King Air twin-engine planes late Thursday night for three hours of spraying. One county-wide application costs about $1 million. A second application is possible if the first attempt does not kill enough mosquitoes.

Critics have also questioned whether the approach is scientifically proven to reduce West Nile cases. But at least one study in California concluded that the odds of infection are about six times lower in treated areas than those that are untreated.

Still, some residents fear the chemicals could harm their children, pets and useful insects such as honeybees and ladybugs.

The chemical released from the planes, synthetic pyrethroid, mimics a naturally occurring substance found in chrysanthemums. The Environmental Protection Agency has said that pyrethroids do not pose a significant risk to wildlife or the environment, though no pesticide is 100 percent safe.

About eight-tenths of an ounce of chemical is applied per acre, said Laura McGowan, a Clarke spokeswoman.

The insecticide's common name is Duet Dual-Action Adulticide. The label says it's toxic to fish and other types of aquatic life, and it contains distilled petroleum.

In states like California and Florida, aerial spraying is a "run-of-the-mill" response to West Nile, McGowan said.

When the mosquito population gets to be a certain level, "they automatically go up," she said. "They do it as a matter of course."

Kelly Nash, who lives in Dallas and works for an environmental consulting firm, questions whether the county is advocating for a controlled oil spill.

"One ounce an acre doesn't sound like much, but we will spray at least 2,000 gallons all over the city," Nash said. "A 2,000-gallon oil spill would be significant. I'm concerned that we're breeding resistant mosquitoes that next time will have Dengue fever or something worse."

Most people infected with West Nile virus won't get sick, but about one in 150 people will develop the severe form of the illness. Symptoms include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Jordan Conner, 14, spent eight days in intensive care with the most severe form of West Nile virus. Her mother, Ebonie Conner of Arlington, said she doesn't approve of aerial spraying and wishes local leaders would do more to educate the community.

"We've been desensitized to West Nile virus," Conner said. "It's been ingrained in us that it affects older people and infants. I think they need to pass out insect repellent, mention it in back-to-school drives."

Lane Robson, who runs up to 30 miles a week around White Rock Lake near her home in Lakewood, said aerial spraying seems like the right decision. But on spraying day, she plans to run indoors on a treadmill just to be safe.

Robson, 55, remembers the last time Dallas officials resorted to aerial spraying. She was 9, and her mother told her to stay inside.

"You have to weigh the good and the bad," Robson said. Spraying "is the lesser of two evils."

To get West Nile aerial spraying alerts to your phone, text the word SPRAY to 48411. WFAA will update you with spraying schedule changes and start times.

In a statement released Thursday morning, the city issued precautions:

Aerial spraying is considered to be an effective and safe way to kill adult mosquitoes in large, densely populated areas. Although the pesticide is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, residents are advised to take the following precautions:

•    Minimize exposure. Avoid being outside, close windows and keep pets inside.
•    If skin or clothes are exposed, wash them with soap and water.
•    Rinse homegrown fruits and vegetables with water as a general precautionary measure.
•    Cover small ornamental fish ponds.
•    Because the chemical breaks down quickly in sunlight and water, no special precautions are suggested for outdoor swimming areas. 

Residents are also urged to reduce outdoor activity during evening and nighttime hours. When outside, cover arms and legs and use a mosquito repellent. Standing water should be eliminated promptly, as mosquitoes can grow from egg to adult in as little as seven days. Breeding places for mosquitoes include swimming pools that are not kept clean, stagnant ponds, pet watering dishes, birdbaths, potted plants, old tires, empty containers, toys and clogged rain gutters and French drains.