Friday, July 18, 2003

West Nile prevention focuses on two sites



By Jeremy W. Steele
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Although mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been found in two Butler County townships, residents and workers ventured outdoors Thursday, undaunted by the reports.

In St. Clair Township, Darrel Rutherford wasn't wearing insect repellent or long sleeves as he toured his 50-acre tire recycling facility.

Neither were the 20 employees who work at D&R Recyclers Inc. In fact, most weren't even wearing shirts.

This despite warnings that tire piles can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. West Nile was found in a mosquito trapped at the site, but Rutherford disputes that mosquitoes are a problem there.

"How can they (not wear shirts) if this is the home base for all the mosquitoes?" says Rutherford, standing next to a towering pile of tires. "If this is the problem, you shouldn't be able to stand here."

In another part of Butler County, James Smith says even strong repellent won't deter the mosquitoes at his West Chester Township home. He said the pests swarm the 85-home Princeton Village Manufactured Home Park on Princeton-Glendale Road from dusk until dawn.

Health officials found West Nile in mosquitoes trapped there, too. Fliers about the virus were taped to doors in the park Thursday.

"I make my kids come in at 4 or 5 - that's when they really start coming out," Smith said, standing on his porch without a shirt early Thursday afternoon. "You can't even go outside and enjoy your life because of the mosquitoes and being afraid they'll kill you."

West Nile has been found in eight Ohio counties so far this year. The mosquito-borne illness killed 31 people last year in the state, which had the third biggest outbreak of the disease with 441 probable or confirmed cases.

Health officials say most people bitten by a mosquito with West Nile won't have serious side effects, and many won't even show signs of the disease.

Those who do get sick have symptoms ranging from flu-like illness to life-threatening encephalitis or meningitis. People with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases are most at risk.

Health officials said owners of the two sites in Butler County where West Nile was found are cooperating with efforts to control mosquitoes.

Rutherford says he sometimes spends more than $400 a month to kill adult mosquitoes and their larvae at his facility, which grinds up thousands of tires a month to recover the rubber. Most of the 1.5 million tires stored at the recycling site are tightly bound in bales - flattened so much there's little space to hold standing water.

He says he's meeting Ohio Environmental Protection Agency requirements and abiding by a June settlement deal with the EPA, which fined him $25,120 for having too many tires at the facility, not providing fire lanes and not doing enough to control mosquitoes.

EPA and county health officials didn't find any mosquito larvae at the site during two visits this week, he said.

"They have been spraying and they will continue to spray," Butler County Health Department director Patricia Burg said. "The owners have been working with us to try to get it under control."

But D&R still has the reputation of being a mosquito breeding ground. And now that the site has been linked to West Nile, that perception isn't likely to go away soon.

That frustrates Rutherford, especially because the suspect mosquito wasn't trapped in a tire pile. Instead, the health department put its trap in the wooded fence line of adjoining property he owns.

"Why don't they put the trap in the piles?" he says, ready to answer his own question. "You won't get no damn mosquitoes out there.

"I'm getting bombarded from the rest of the neighborhood. Nobody else is doing spraying for mosquitoes."

E-mail jsteele@enquirer.com




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