Mosquitoes have city buzzing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2000

Warning: there are mosquitoes in Austin, but the 15th annual SPAMTOWN USA Festival continues.

Saturday, July 01, 2000

Warning: there are mosquitoes in Austin, but the 15th annual SPAMTOWN USA Festival continues.

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Nothing will stop the summertime Independence Day holiday fun. Not even hordes of mosquitoes.

And, there’s nothing the city can do about them.

Jon W. Erichson, director of public works, confirms that.

So does Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz.

Not since 1991 has the city had anyone licensed to spray mosquito-killing chemicals.

If the city has any equipment, it would first have to be licensed and then the equipment, suspected to have been unused since 1991, would have to be brought up to working order.

"And, spraying doesn’t really help considering the conditions we have," Erichson said. "Aerial spraying only kills the adult mosquitoes. The larvae on the ground and water below would not be disturbed and more mosquitoes would be hatched and fill the air to replace those you killed."

And, considering the attention to possible pollution and other health hazards, Erichson wondered, "Does any city spray for mosquitoes anymore?"

The conditions are perfect for the maturation of mosquitoes: rain-soaked ground, high water in the three waterways coursing through the city, warm temperatures and humidity.

It’s as close to mosquito heaven as it gets.

But, it can create some hellish conditions for humans; especially children.

A resident who lives in the area of 5th Place Southeast lives two lots from a "Dumping ground," he said, asking that his name not be used because of possible retaliation.

"It’s not my neighbor’s lot, but it’s another lot away and they dump tires, auto parts and garbage and everything there."

"There’s water standing around in pools and puddles. They got mosquitoes galore and badgers and rats. It’s a mess and a health hazard," he said.

According to the resident, his wife has ceased her part-time child care home-based business, because "the kids keep getting bit by mosquitoes all during the day. Some are so little they don’t know until they’ve been bit and they get bit in the ears and the mouth. It’s terrible."

"If the city isn’t licensed to spray for mosquitoes, they should hire somebody who is licensed. This is an issue. A health issue we’re dealing with all over town," he said.

Erichson admitted he has received calls, complaining about the mosquito problem in Austin, but he said he is handicapped about what he can or cannot do.

Right now, there are no plans being considered for taking action to eradicate mosquitoes in the city, according to Erichson.

Two years ago, a June 1996 windstorm devastated Austin’s tree populations and caused extensive damages along city streets and in public parks and other areas.

It happened two weeks before the annual SPAMTOWN USA Festival and SPAM Jam celebrations.

Miraculously, East Side Lake Park and other areas where the celebrations’ activities took place where cleaned up and the fun went on without interruption.

But compared to hauling away uprooted trees and downed branches, battling pesky mosquitoes is quite a different problem and, maybe, an impossible one to defeat.

So, spray all exposed parts of the body or wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

And, play to slap the pests when all else fails.

Also, plan to party safely.