Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton said the administration is revoking its decision to pull out of a state black fly spraying program this year.
“Residents have expressed concerns about the discomfort and nuisance inflicted by these flies. This decision has been reconsidered in light of the public’s interest in this,” Lawton said.
County management eliminated $75,000 from the 2013 budget for black fly spraying because the state did not supply documentation showing the program has proven results. The administration had planned to conduct spraying in-house if problems surfaced.
However, some County Council members and citizens expressed concern the bug problem would escalate without the state spraying. The gnats — technically known as black flies — tend to stay close to the river but are known to travel 20 miles, state officials said.
Prior commissioners in 2010 considered a similar spraying cancellation on the advice of an outside financial recovery consultant, but they reversed their decision after the state warned the Susquehanna River generates “tremendous numbers of adult gnats that will adversely impact outdoor recreation activities throughout the county.”
Lawton said the $75,000 is not due until November. The administration plans to ask municipalities along the Susquehanna to help pay the bill to reduce the county burden, Lawton said.
Without support, the county must cut $75,000 in spending on something else to cover the additional expense. Lawton said he is “puzzled” that municipalities aren’t expected to chip in.
The administration also will continue pressing the state Department of Environmental Protection for more evidence on the program’s effectiveness, he said.
“We look forward to collaborating with our colleagues at DEP to provide detailed explanations of where the money is being spent, how effective it’s being spent and what alternatives have been considered to suppress these nuisance insects,” Lawton said.
He said he will present his findings to council, which must decide if the program will be funded for 2014.
The state uses Bti, a naturally occurring bacterium, to target the larval stage of four specific black fly species, according to a media release. This bacterium degrades quickly in the environment and does not harm the aquatic ecosystem, fish, birds or other insects.
This effort “greatly reduces” the black fly population, making it easier for Pennsylvanians to enjoy outdoor activities during the warmer months of the year, the release said.
The state will treat and monitor more than 1,500 miles of rivers and streams through August through the program.