The severe impacts of meeting new regulatory costs are topics of widespread discussion at the annual meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association this week in Anaheim.
These new costs are a result of a court decision placing mosquito control activities under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. This subjects mosquito control activities to an unfunded federal mandate to comply with water quality laws in addition to the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act which, for the last 40 years, has fully and successfully regulated these activities. New costs to districts will include permit application fees, administrative costs, new staffing and expensive water quality monitoring tests. New costs to mosquito control districts in California have been estimated at $200K to $500K per district. These new costs alone will exceed the yearly budgets of some districts. Discussions among mosquito control experts across the country have revealed estimates of upwards of $24 million and as much as $95 million in new taxes to meet this new mandate. Ironically, these new requirements will not provide any foreseeable environmental benefit over that we’ve enjoyed up until now.
Joe Conlon, Technical Advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, states that, “The ability of mosquito control agencies across the United States to protect the public from mosquitoes and the diseases they carry will be severely compromised by costs incurred to meet new and unnecessary regulatory requirements being levied to comply with the Clean Water Act.” Sadly, the public health community fears that many cash-strapped municipalities nationwide will be forced to curtail or eliminate mosquito control activities – leaving their citizens vulnerable to diseases such as West Nile Virus and other exotic mosquito-borne pathogens that are but a few hours flight time away. Several recent studies have documented the role of mosquito control programs in either preventing or halting outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease. “However, the continued presence of West Nile Virus and the emergence and spread of Dengue Fever in the Florida Keys in 2010 should be a reminder of our vulnerability to reintroduction of mosquito-borne diseases once common in the United States and the continuing role of mosquito control in their abeyance”, says Mr. Conlon.
In light of these emerging threats, degrading mosquito control capabilities unnecessarily is clearly intolerable. Public health officials are hopeful that Congress will pass legislation to remedy this problem and avoid a potentially catastrophic loss of protection to those who are most vulnerable to mosquito-borne disease preventable by environmentally-conscious mosquito control activities.