East Hampton and Suffolk County officials on Friday in Springs hailed the success of a testing project designed to reduce mosquitoes in nearby marshes while cutting down on pesticides and the county's pesticide spraying costs.
The targeted spraying along Accabonac Harbor during the second year of the Accabonac Harbor Mosquito Testing Project resulted in more effective treatment of areas where mosquitoes were populating, Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack) said during a news conference.
Using data gathered by citizen scientists from local environmental groups and college students, who measured for mosquito larvae in the harbor water, the Division of Vector Control for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works reduced the number of times it sprayed anti-mosquito pesticides around the harbor from 13 weeks during the summer to four.
The more strategic, targeted spraying times reduced the population of mosquitoes while allowing for the return of the natural wildlife, including bald eagles. The effort also cut the county’s pesticide spraying costs from $45,000 annually to $15,000, officials said.
“This is a great way to lower the costs of government while working with our partners in East Hampton Town,” Fleming said.
Before the start of the program, the county treated roughly 2,500 acres around the harbor with pesticides every year, said Tom Iwanejko, director of Suffolk County Vector Control. While his department was small, which made frequent testing difficult, the larvae counts the testing project gathered allowed the department to focus on just over 200 acres around the harbor, reducing the areas that needed to be sprayed by 77 percent.
Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman said the project was an example of what happens when county and local governments work together with residents.
“When we work together as governments and as a community, we save money and we make a difference,” Kaiman said.
East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the program was a great way “to protect public health and prevent the spread of infectious disease without destroying our environment."
Edwina von Gal, 71, a Springs resident who lives near the harbor and is the founder and president of the East Hampton-based environmental nonprofit Perfect Earth Project, which participated in the project, said she was glad to see dragonflies and certain birds returning thanks to the reduction in pesticide spraying.
“This project met a lot of different needs from different sides of the conversation, and by working together, we all got to know each other,” von Gal said.