Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dallas Mosquito Outbreak due to Budget Cuts? Uncertain.

(Since posting the following I have received information that adds to this many other reasons that contribute to this crisis, and places very credible doubts as to the following report on Mr. Becker being a significant factor.  See details below following post.  This does NOT mean the people involved in gathering the following data were less than very well intentioned.  8-24-12 @ 5 PM Bill Betzen)

How the mosquito outbreak was caused by Dallas gov not replacing progressive city entomologist who retired

by Amy Martin on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 5:12pm ·
FYI from AMY MARTIN www.Moonlady.com: Passing along info I received on how the mosquito outbreak was caused by Dallas government not replacing progressive city entomologist who retired and how he's back now! I've attached a 2010 news article about Mr Becker.

from Mike McBride - the real story behind the West Nile outbreak

For more than four decades, the City of Dallas employed a degreed entomologist named Will Becker, with a team working under him whose sole responsibility was to control the mosquito population in the Dallas metro area. They accomplished this with the proactive, preventative, cost effective, and organic method of keeping urban bodies of water (ponds, drainage ditches, stagnant creeks, unkempt swimming pools) stocked with schools of Gambusia minnows - a small fish that eats mosquito larvae.

This method was so successful that for 45 years, the need to spray chemical insecticide to control mosquitoes in the Dallas area never arose.

After decades of tireless service to the city, Will Becker retired a couple of years ago. In its infinite wisdom, the City of Dallas decided to dissolve Mr. Becker's department as a cost cutting measure rather than hire a qualified replacement. So the practice of keeping mosquito-friendly bodies of water stocked with larvae eating fish stopped.

Last year's extreme drought dried up nearly all of the urban bodies of water in which mosquitoes thrive, and of course, the abundant rainfall in Dallas during the early part of this year refilled all of those ponds, creeks, ditches, and unkempt pools. An ecosystem in which mosquitoes thrive was reintroduced to the Dallas area, but with the notable absence of the Gambusia minnows that eat their larvae.

The result? The Dallas mosquito population exploded uncontrollably, an outbreak of West Nile virus ensued, 16 people are now dead, hundreds more are extremely sick. Millions of dollars have been spent on the reactive, environmentally threatening method of controlling mosquitoes with chemical spray, and Dallasites routinely wake up to the acrid, pungent scent of insecticide in the air.

Realizing their error in judgment, City of Dallas officials have begged Will Becker out of retirement, his team has been reassembled, and the tedious process of restocking urban bodies of water with minnows who eat mosquito larvae is underway.

Hopefully, when Mr. Becker re-retires, the city will exercise better judgment in its evaluation of the need for his department to continue its operations. As far as I'm concerned, the people who decided to dissolve it in the first place are guilty of murdering 16 people.

How do I know all this? Will Becker is my uncle - my mom's brother. And if you're a Dallasite scared of being bit by a mosquito and tired of inhaling pesticide spray, he's about to be your hero, though he may never get the public recognition he deserves (and frankly, he's a humble man who doesn't want the notoriety.)

One of the saddest elements of this story is that you're hearing it from a South Texas sportscaster on Facebook, and not from a Dallas news outlet. Doesn't say much for the alleged "journalists" who are employed to keep you apprised of such things, or for the spineless city officials who want to keep the truth behind the West Nile problem hidden from citizens who have the right to know about it. Well....now you know.

Article from long ago about Will Becker
and his work to keep us healthy
(Right-click and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)

===== Fact Checking by Bill Betzen ======

This article is posted here with the permission of Amy Martin at the www.moonlady.com.  The article has been spreading online.  

I emailed Eric Nicholson, who wrote the article inserted above with Will's photo.  He now works for the Dallas Observer.  He emailed me back saying he remembers Will Becker and is following up on this story.  Regarding Will Becker I found this article with his name and Dallas City employment verified on it regarding the minnows he uses: http://tarrantcounty.com/ehealth/lib/ehealth/Gambusia_Affinis_Stocking_Guide_for_Local_Governments.pdf

A fascinating discussion of this article and related details is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AmyLifeIsGoodMartin#!/notes/amy-moonlady-martin/how-the-west-nile-problem-was-caused-by-dallas-not-replacing-progressive-city-en/10151029919909163

I have located a Mike McBride who is a South Texas sportscaster.  I've sent a message to ask if he wrote the original article above.

According to a 8-2-12 news report, Gambusia Minnows are in short supply in Tarrant County: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/08/02/mosquito-controlling-fish-in-short-supply/ .  What is that situation in Dallas County?

Update 8-24-12 @ 5 PM: Today I spoke with another entomologist who very convincingly gave me many other reasons, mostly related to local climate change, for this crisis unrelated to the minnow population which has apparently been maintained both before and after Will Becker was a Dallas City employee. I no longer believe that the minnow population issue is more than a side issue that does not account for the extent of the current crisis. 

An article has been posted this evening by the Dallas Morning News at http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/2012/08/city-of-dallas-theres-no-connection-between-west-nile-outbreak-and-employees-retirement.html/ .  I am unable to locate any information that indicates this article is less than factually correct.   It appears the information was simply mis-interpreted about the importance of the minnows and the connections with Will's retirement.  Many other factors were involved.

If anyone sees any errors above, please email me at bbetzen@aol.com with the sources of the correct data so corrections can be posted here. At this time I think we may have the complete story as now posted.

8-24-12  5:00 PM
Bill Betzen