FORT COLLINS - Amid a swarm of criticism from residents, Fort Collins City Council members on Tuesday vowed to review and possibly change the city's policy on spraying for adult mosquitoes.
Councilman Ross Cunniff told the large audience packed into the council's chamber he has not seen evidence that spraying for mosquitoes is the "best response" for dealing with the risk of West Nile virus.
Cunniff urged the community to stay involved with the council, which he said is committed to doing what's best to protect the public's health.
"The more information we have, the better decision we will make," he said. "The stronger the engagement we have with the public, the better decision we will make."
More than 20 people addressed the council about mosquito spraying, with most opposed to the use of permethrin-based insecticide across the city. Some claimed the insecticide is a known carcinogen and should not be broadcast over such a large area.
Several carried yellow placards decorated with a black skull and crossbones symbol and the words, "No spray! Fort Collins."
Resident Rebecca Sorber said research done in Texas indicated mosquito populations increase after mass spraying. Other speakers said they most resented not being able to have a choice about being sprayed.
Jesse Eastman, owner of Fort Collins Nursery, said if he used chemicals in the same manner the city has, his business would be "fined, shut down or worse."
Eastman said the city should increase its education efforts on how residents can protect themselves and abandon spraying for adult mosquitoes.
"It unnecessarily puts every man, woman and child in this town at risk," he said. "It is a cowardly and lazy solution to a problem that can be effectively managed through improved public awareness and outreach."
City Manager Darin Atteberry said the decision to spray this year was based on city policy for responding to the risk for West Nile virus. Spraying began after the Larimer County health department made three recommendations to begin because of the growing threat to residents.
The city's response to the virus follows specific criteria and ramps up as conditions change, he said.
Spraying began last week, with the entire city sprayed during the course of two nights. Spraying continued on Monday and Tuesday in an effort to knock down the latest hatching of mosquitoes and break the cycle for the virus.
As of Monday, Larimer County had 30 cases of confirmed West Nile virus disease in people, according to the county health department. Of those, eight were suffering from a neuroinvasive form of the disease, which includes meningitis, encephalitis and paralysis.
This year's outbreak is the worst the city has seen since 2003, when dozens of people fell seriously ill and nine Larimer County residents died, officials say.
Former council member David Roy said residents understand the potential serious health dangers posed by the virus and sympathize with those who have fallen ill.
"That compassion should not be mistaken for a desire to be sprayed," he said.
The council is scheduled to have a work session on the spraying program in October. By then, officials are expected to have data showing the effectiveness of the city's West Nile mitigation efforts.
Written by: Kevin Duggan
(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)