Boro Cabinet Discusses WNV Spraying; Surveillance
Boro Cabinet Discusses
While the New York City Department of Health (DOH) was on the agenda to present a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) it is preparing as part of its Mosquito-Borne Disease Control Plan for Adult Mosquitoes, an announcement by Health Department Commissioner Neal Cohen, M.D., confirming the presence of West Nile Virus in two dead crows found on Staten Island in early July and the scheduled spraying of pesticide in the city for the first time this summer, took precedence at a meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet held on July 18 at Borough Hall.
In a statement released at the cabinet meeting, Cohen said, "These findings underscore the importance of our ongoing, intensive efforts to test birds, sentinel chickens and mosquitoes, as well as to conduct human surveillance in cooperation with medical providers, to identify West Nile Virus as early as possible."
A 71-year-old man who died on Staten Island on July 19th after he was taken to the hospital on July 5th complaining of headache, fever, and confusion, was found not to have been infected with the West Nile Virus after tissue and blood samples from the man were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta where tests revealed the cause of death was encephalitis, which has symptoms that are similar to West Nile Virus.
Staten Island was scheduled for ground-based spraying with the insecticide Anvil on Wednesday, July 19th, from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. Thursday, July 20th. The spraying was centered in the Rossville and Westerleigh areas in a two-mile radius around where the crows were found on July 5th and 6th. While there has been evidence of West Nile Virus found in birds tested in Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties in New York state, as well as in Bergen County, New Jersey, the dead crows in Staten Island were the first time WNV has been identified in birds in New York City this year
Chris D’Andrea, an environmental hygienist for DOH, presented the draft EIS at the cabinet meeting as a scoping document with the stated purpose of protecting "the public and the environment from the potential adverse effects from the application of adulticides, should all of the preventative efforts under the routine program prove not to be effective." D’Andrea, however, admitted events had presented DOH with "the moment we’ve all not been waiting for."
Anvil is a pyrethroid-based pesticide effective for controlling mosquitoes and, along with Scourge, is available to the city for mosquito control. Both are registered for use by the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The active ingredient in Anvil is Sumithrin and the active ingredient in Scourge is Resemethrin. Sumithrin and Resemethrin are synthetic pesticides similar to a natural pesticide produced by chrysanthemum flowers. According to DOH, Sumithrin breaks down quickly in sunlight and water, and Resemethrin decomposes very fast in sunlight or when exposed to air.
Environmental Impact Statements are reports prepared on the probable environmental effects of proposed projects, such as highways, large-scale residential or commercial construction, power plants, or dams, which might significantly alter the environment.
The DOH environmental impact study will address the kinds of products that can be used to kill mosquitoes as well as their characteristics, active and inactive ingredients, physical properties, and how they can be applied. In addition, label requirements for application, ground or aerial pathways and the consequences of inhalation, dermal contact, use over water, effects on rainfall runoffs and the environment types of selected representative areas, e.g., residential, commercial or industrial, would be investigated.
According to a report in the July 21st New York Times, several environmental groups filed a lawsuit in Manhattan on July 20th asking a federal judge to stop the city’s spraying program, claiming the city violated environmental laws with the spraying of Staten Island.
Specifically, the lawsuit charges city officials did not follow procedures called for by the Clean Water Act as well as other state and federal environmental laws.
The DOH environmental impact statement draft was begun in May and a series of public hearings, one in each borough, was held the week of June 19th to solicit comments from the public. The draft should be completed by September and then another series of public hearings will be scheduled in October and November to get public comment again. The final Environmental Impact Statement won’t be finished until December, 2000, ready for 2001 but too late for the summer of 2000.
In the meantime, spraying in Staten Island, and if necessary, elsewhere in New York City, will be conducted in accordance with EPA and DEC guidelines. The DOH has recommended that people in an area where Anvil or Scourge is being sprayed avoid direct exposure.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 requires every U.S. government agency to issue a statement on any project it plans to undertake, regulate or fund and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviews all federal environmental impact statements to ensure compliance with the law. In addition, many state and local governments require environmental impact statements.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani criticized the environmentalists’ lawsuit in the July 21st Times report and suggested that protests against pesticides could contribute indirectly to the spread of disease. "Human life is at stake," he said, adding, "Their (environmentalists’) lawsuit is highly irresponsible and helps to contribute to the outbreak of things like this." The city has 20 days to respond to the complaint before the judge.
Spraying in four Westchester Counties was planned, beginning at night on July 21st and will be extended to 10 more counties in Westchester starting at midnight on July 22nd.
So far, the surveillance portion of the DOH Mosquito Control Plan has resulted in the larvaciding of 150,000 catch basins throughout the city, and according to DOH, will continue through the summer. If a dead bird is sited, DOH stressed that while this is very important, every bird reported may not be picked up. In addition, there are 14 flocks of chickens throughout the city that are tested every week for the presence of the West Nile virus and 120 mosquito traps at more than 70 sites citywide.
Concerning prevention, DOH continues to urge the elimination of standing water. Reports can be made to the health Department through the West Nile Virus hot line—1-877-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692) or the city’s website (nyc.gov /health).