Dallas County's West Nile aerial assault could start by Friday

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by DAVID SCHECHTER & JANET ST. JAMES

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on August 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 14 at 4:59 PM

DALLAS — While county officials hoped aerial spraying to prevent the West Nile virus would start Thursday, it may not begin in Dallas County until Friday.

An emergency addition was made to the agenda for the Dallas City Council's noon meeting Wednesday to discuss local and state actions to prevent the virus.

Tuesday, the Mesquite City Council passed a state of disaster ordinance supporting the use of aerial spraying by the state health department.

Highland Park officials announced they have agreed to aerial spraying. And while there have been no further determinations on which cities will receive aerial spraying, with Mesquite's ordinance Tuesday, they join officials for the City of Dallas and University Park who support aerial spraying.

Dallas County said Tuesday afternoon each city north of Interstate-30 will have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to confirm their desire for aerial spray.
  
Also Tuesday, passionate residents on both sides of the aerial spraying debate made their thoughts known at the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

Residents expressed concerned about human health effects and possible effects to honey bees.

"As an attorney, I am considering the cost and the legal fees," said Michelle Schulz, of Dallas. "And I think everyone here should consider if we're ready for the economic effects. Do you want to pay for the litigation? I know that I don't. I think that spraying should be a last resort."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he is looking into other factors when it comes to spraying.

"I cannot make decisions based on lawsuits," he said. "I have got to make decisions based on public health. Having said that, I did discuss with the CDC if any lawsuits had resulted from other spraying, they confirmed there had been lawsuits but they are unaware of any recoveries."

Jenkins met Monday with more than a dozen mayors of cities north of Interstate 30 to talk about expanded aerial mosquito spraying. Jenkins said officials with the CDC said it is safe to spray. Now, it is up to local communities in northern Dallas County to opt into the spraying program and they have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to make the decision.

Jenkins said the quick decision is warranted because of the urgency of the West Nile situation, and the complexity of aerial grids for the planes themselves.

Dallas County has contracted with Clarke, an environmental services company, which has handled aerial mosquito spraying across the country. County officials said a fleet of up to five planes should be available by Friday at the latest.

Once the FAA approves airspace, planes will disperse chemicals in specific areas at night.

Authorities said they're trying aerial spraying because tiny droplets dispersed behind trucks can't scale the high walls, tall homes, and dense foliage in parts of North Dallas, University Park and Highland Park.

Still, some residents say they'd rather risk mosquitoes than chemicals.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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