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Officials clear debris to target mosquito breeding

A mosquito, a carrier for the potentially lethal

A mosquito, a carrier for the potentially lethal West Nile virus. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Suffolk County Department of Public Works crews, hoping to avert a potential mosquito issue this summer, are continuing efforts to remove superstorm Sandy-related debris from Mastic Beach wetlands.

"It's vital for the health of the wetlands to flood and drain every day so it won't be stagnant and breed mosquitoes," village trustee Gary Stiriz said Monday.

A six-member Suffolk County vector crew, which falls under public works, began debris removal along Riviera Drive last week and are expected to continue for up to two weeks, county officials said.

An additional two workers with the village are also assisting.

Vector control maintains county ditch systems throughout the winter and sprays mosquito repellent in the summer, officials said.

Debris can potentially clog ditches in the wetlands, which could lead to standing water attracting an unbearable number of mosquitoes this summer, county officials say.

To ensure the environment won't be disrupted, crew members are using low-grade pressure machines to remove branches, logs and other hazardous materials that ended up in the wetlands during the storm, county officials said.

Eventually the collected material will be placed in a Dumpster and sent to an environmental transfer station, village officials said.

Cooperation between separate governments is always good and everyone in this case has the same goal, which is to clean up Mastic Beach, Stiriz said.

"The most important thing is removal," he said.

Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi said he contacted the state Department of Environmental Conservation in December to remove the debris, but was directed to the county because it could do a better job.

The mayor said he's relieved removal efforts have started because debris could potentially block roads. "Having debris in the wetlands looks bad," Biondi said.

The mayor said an oil tank, propane tank and a Jacuzzi tub washed ashore during the height of Sandy. Biondi added the village is prone to high tide, and that every time it floods, hazardous materials end up in Mastic Beach.

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