[Ed Note: This is the inaugural post for SGSB’s Newsroom, a forum for local voices who speak for our bay and for our local environment. Take a look around. We have no time left for inaction and business as usual. The natural beauty that made Long Island a special place is disappearing before our eyes. It is up to us to speak up and take action while there’s still something left to save. If you wish to speak on an issue that our media and our political leaders aren’t sufficiently addressing, please submit your post idea to [email protected]].
Today’s Guest Contributor: Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O. Kevin has for decades been a tireless advocate for our local aquatic and marine environments.
Methoprene (trade name Altocid) is classified as an insect growth regulator, as defined by its mechanism of action. Methoprene interferes with maturation and reproduction in insects by mimicking the activity of the insect’s juvenile hormone, which controls the growth of insect larvae.
When ingested or absorbed through the exoskeleton, methoprene causes developmental abnormality, reducing survival. In basic terms, it artificially stunts the insects’ growth, making it impossible for it to mature into an adult.
Insects and crustaceans (shrimps, lobsters, crabs) are physiologically similar organisms, as they both belong to the larger group Arthropoda. Consequently, non-target aquatic insects and crustaceans inhabiting salt marshes are susceptible to chemical effects of methoprene. Methoprene is also often sprayed on freshwater marshes, and is toxic to frogs, toads, and salamanders.
Suffolk County’s Department of Public Works (DPW), through the implementation of its Annual Plan of Work regularly broadcast-sprays methoprene in salt marshes by helicopter on over 15,000 to 30,000 acres annually, or 23 to 46 square miles!
Suffolk County must at last end its practice of spraying methoprene on our wetlands.
The reasons to end the spraying of methoprene are myriad and unequivocal:
• Suffolk’s coastal waters are stressed from pollution. Why do we have a standing policy that increases it?
• Methoprene is highly toxic to some species of freshwater, estuarine and marine invertebrates and amphibians.
• Salt marsh mosquitoes DO NOT transmit West Nile Virus. Freshwater mosquitoes (the ones in your yard) do.
• The spraying IS NOT about disease control but nuisance control, and as such DOES NOT justify the collateral damage to the environment.
• In 2007, following an extensive review of methoprene, Suffolk County’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) found sufficient evidence of adverse impacts to recommend restricting its use. CEQ’s findings were ignored by the Suffolk Legislature.
• In 2013, Connecticut banned methoprene use in coastal areas.
• In 2015, Senator Christopher Murphy (CT) urged Governor Cuomo to ban methoprene in coastal areas of New York.
• New York City restricts methoprene use near Jamaica Bay.
• Rhode Island restricts methoprene use near Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound.
• In 2014, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service suspended methoprene use in Coos Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Oregon).
• Fire Island National Seashore does not allow adulticide and larvicide applications on federal property in absence of a confirmed disease threat.
• An alternative larvicide exists: Bti (Bacillus thurigiensis israelensis) is a naturally occurring bacterium that poses minimal risks to arthropods and is widely used for mosquito reduction.
• New York State Senate Bill 4819 and Assembly Bill 6336 (pending) seeks a ban of methoprene in coastal areas.
By all reason, Suffolk County needs to join Connecticut, Rhode Island, NYC and USFWS and rely exclusively on Bti to avoid collateral damage to marsh ecology. It boggles the mind that the county continues to stubbornly cling to this destructive practice of spraying methoprene when other jurisdictions are banning it, and when there is a safer alternative available. Our coastal waters are under extreme duress, largely because of past failures to acknowledge the threats to them and to adopt protective measures. We must take action now.
Suffolk County once led the nation by instituting a voluntary suspension of DDT use in 1967 [Ed Note: Then of course, it was a British expat Dennis Pulston who was the driving force here]. Fifty years later, we’re calling on Suffolk County to demonstrate similar resolve, for once again the future of our waters are at stake.
We call upon Suffolk County to do the right thing: Eliminate methoprene from the 2019 Annual Plan of Work. The County Legislature will vote on this, first 11/16 at 2pm with the Legislature’s DPW Committee, then on 11/20 9:30 with the full Legislature. Both votes will take place in The Legislative Auditorium at 725 Vets Hwy, Smithtown.
We need to show in numbers. Let them know this toxic practice must end! Meanwhile, please sign the petition and ask all your friends to sign as well. The only way we eliminate this toxic practice is to speak out.