The sudden announcement that the city will roll out the fogging trucks for the first time since 2010 may have caught malathion foes unawares, but they are quickly drawing the battle lines against the controversial practice -- and the city is taking steps to make it easier for them to do so.
Fogging opponent Anne Lindsey, a longtime Winnipeg environmental activist, said Saturday evening she registered an immediate complaint over the fogging campaign with the city as soon as she heard the news.
Lindsey said she planned to take it a step further by filing another complaint with the province for issuing the permit to allow the use of malathion.
"I'm really angry about the malathion spraying. The thing that bugs me is they announced they'd start tomorrow," Lindsey said.
City entomologist Taz Stuart told a press conference late Saturday afternoon fogging will begin overnight Sunday to combat soaring mosquito counts in some parts of Winnipeg.
'I'm really angry about the malathion spraying. The thing that bugs me is they announced they'd start tomorrow'
He promised the campaign will be short and targeted. The city's insect control branch will posted the areas to be fogged on its website Sunday morning, in keeping with the city's policy to issue notifications eight hours in advance of fogging:
- St. James between Sturgeon Road and Route 90
- Charleswood-Tuxedo between Harston Road and Kenaston
- River Heights - Fort Garry between Kenaston and Pembina Highway, north of Taylor Avenue
- Fort Rouge - East Fort Garry around the Lord Roberts and Osborne/Riverview areas
- St. Vital around the Kingston Crescent, Victoria Crescent, Minnetonka, Norberry and Pulberry areas
Weather permitting, crews will be in the areas between 9:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Full fogging plans are available on the City of Winnipeg's website.
It is the first time since 2010 city officials have approved the use of malathion, a derivative of nerve gas that's the equivalent of a smart bomb for mosquitoes. The chemical, although legal in Canada, is considered unattractive because it indiscriminately kills many insect species and breaks down into potentially more harmful components.
In an effort to deal with environmental objections, the city will open its insect control branches at 1539 Waverley St and at 3 Grey St. Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to give fogging opponents a chance to register their properties against spraying. Ordinarily the city registers 1,200 to 1,300 so-called buffer zones a year but this year there are just 400 on the list, Stuart said.
Would-be registrants have to show up in person with a piece of identification, such as a valid driver's licence or recent utility bill, to show they reside at the property to be registered. Once registered, there is a 90-metre buffer zone around the property that won't be sprayed. (Winnipeggers can call the city at 311 to find out if their home falls within a neighbour's buffer zone.)
But for opponents such as Lindsey, that's not good enough.
"They haven't given people enough time," she said. "It's not like it's an emergency. It's a nuisance campaign."
The species of mosquito that's a health hazard as a carrier of the West Nile virus has yet to make an appearance in Winnipeg this year and the effects of fogging wear off in the environment after a day or two.
Stuart said there is a wide divergence in trap counts from one part of the city to another, likely the effects of larviciding that killed off a lot of mosquitoes before they could reach the adult stage.
For that reason, Stuart stressed the fogging campaign won't be blanket coverage.
"Not everyone may be fogged or may not be fogged. It all depends on conditions. It's a day-by-day analysis," he told reporters outside the Windsor Park Golf Course in St. Vital.
He identified the first locations for fogging in the southwest quadrant of the city, areas near the Assiniboine Forest that registered astounding counts Saturday of 1,808 in mosquito traps the city uses to arrive at their numbers.
That means Charleswood and neighbourhoods such as Linden Woods will likely be identified today as target areas, Stuart said.
Stuart said the high numbers in the Assiniboine Forest may reflect a migration of adult mosquitoes from outside the city that hadn't been exposed to larvicide.
Whatever the reason, the extraordinary numbers further hiked the city's risk factor, a measurement called the Adulticiding Factor Analysis, that earlier this week had already risen from medium to high and triggered the fogging campaign this weekend.
Fogging has drawn battle lines with protesters with national headlines, such as the ones in reaction to the brief arrest of Glenda Whiteman, a Winnipeg woman who opposed the use of malathion spray in 2004. She and other environmental activists had erected a blockade on a city street to stop the trucks from spraying her property.
Since then, the war on malathion has simmered down and earlier this year, it looked as if the city had surrendered entirely.
Winnipeg announced it would test a biological alternative to the chemical pesticide this summer if mosquito trap counts were high enough to warrant fogging.
But Saturday, Stuart said he hadn't been able to obtain enough supply of the alternative in time for this weekend. It's a risk-neutral substance called Pryocide ULV7067. The compound is made from a neurotoxin derived from chrysanthemum plants and a sassafras derivative that magnifies its lethal power by turning off enzymes that help mosquitoes repel chemical attacks.
The best way to beat being bitten is to use DEET spray, wear light-coloured clothes and avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn.