Local officials talk a good game about killing mosquitoes this West Nile season, but are they doing enough to warn us before they unleash mosquito-killing insecticides in our neighborhoods? These are insecticides that, as we've covered, might not be so good for people to breathe in. City Hall's own website says that residents who live in zip codes getting sprayed "should avoid contact with the spray by staying indoors." So, some loud warnings about where they're coming next would be nice.
For now, if you want to avoid getting sprayed, you'll have to be proactive and play an exciting game of Internet-detective.
There are actually two different local agencies sending out their own spray trucks--the City of Dallas and Dallas County. According to the dates on its press releases, the city's website is posting spray warnings a day in advance, at a special webpage dedicated to West Nile.
It's been one of the go-to websites for the Texas Honeybee Guild's Brandon Pollard. After losing much of his bees last year, he suspects that all the insecticides in the air were to blame. He's been refreshing the site several times each day and night.
"If I could have at least 24 hours or even 48 hours [of a warning] that would be great, because then I could consider moving the hives," he tells Unfair Park.
There's also a weird, defunct West Nile website for the City of Dallas that looks exactly the same as the original site, except none of the letters in the URL are capitalized. More importantly, that page is over a week out-of-date with it's spray alert information. So, don't go there.
Meanwhile, the County has been sending out its own spray trucks to all the other municipalities within Dallas County. And of course, information about where the County is spraying is posted on yet a different website.
To find out where the County is spraying, you'll have to view County's at fancy interactive map.
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And how soon in advance is this site updated? County health director Zachary Thompson gave me a range of anywhere between 8 and 48 hours. He wouldn't elaborate why. "I'm okay with that, the bottom line is if we identify a positive mosquito, we just have to look at the immediate option."
Marie Tedei, head of Eden's Organic Farms in Balch Springs, says she used to get reverse 911 calls in previous years warning when spray trucks were coming. "I don't get those anymore, there's very little communication and advance warning when they're going to start doing that stuff," she says.
Thompson says that "we work with the municipality regarding the notification of the citizens," but wouldn't comment on Tedei's complaints, saying her questions were something that the City of Balch Springs would have the answer to.
A large coalition of prominent local foodies and researchers have been urging the City and the County to use larvicides instead of insecticides. They cite a growing body of evidence suggesting that insecticides can be toxic to humans, particularly children, and are also just generally bad for our whole eco-system. A more immediate danger of spraying is that the insecticide may kill local bees and invade local organic gardens, hurting business not just for the bee keepers and farmers, but also the local chefs who cook with that food.