Committee OK’s bill to allow municipal employees to treat for West Nile

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On June 20, the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture favorably reported a bill that would allow municipal employees to apply larvicides in catch basins to control the spread of mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile.

The bill (H. 757), filed by Rep. Jason Lewis of Winchester, would amend the Pesticide Control Act to allow municipal public works and seasonal employees to obtain a special license for the singular purpose of treating catch basins.

The bill would restore a practice that was in effect from 2001 through 2009. Currently, however, only licensed pesticide applicators may apply larvicides in catch basins.

The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Commission, which is advocating for the legislation, argues that an urban community in the Boston area may have thousands of catch basins, which serve as breeding grounds for Culex mosquitos, the primary vectors for the West Nile virus. According to the commission, 33 Massachusetts residents contracted the virus last year.

The Natural Resources Committee attached an emergency provision that would enable the law to take effect immediately once it is enacted and signed by the governor.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The MMA’s Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration endorsed the legislation in May.
Written by MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Tom Philbin