Unmaintained Swimming Pools Becoming Breeding Grounds for Mosquitoes

Unmaintained Swimming Pools Becoming Breeding Grounds for Mosquitoes

June 16th, 2015 by Pasadena Independent

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By Terry Miller

On Wednesday morning, Lt. Mike Ingram, Air Operations for Pasadena Police Department, arranged for Vector Control specialist 1, Leslie Conner to fly around the Valley in search of more pools that may be contributing to mosquito population and thus increasing the chance West Nile Virus. Pasadena Independent went along for the ride with pilot T.J. Gonzales and Sean Porter- Tactical Flight Officer.
Lt. Ingram pointed out that Vector Control San Gabriel Valley and Pasadena Police Air Operations also work in conjunction with FAST- Foothill Air Support Team and routinely service about 26 cities and advise Vector Control of questionable pools this time of year, in addition to assisting cities with crime prevention.

Each year at the beginning of summer, Pasadena Police Department works concurrently with Vector Control to assess potential dangers lurking in unmaintained swimming pools or other areas where water may be stagnant.

As of June 1, the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District (SGVMVCD) is monitoring over 1,700 swimming pools that are either empty or unmaintained in the 241 square miles that make up their district.

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While flying across the San Gabriel Valley Wednesday morning we noticed several pools that were mostly drained but had significant amounts of algae and obviously breeding mosquitoes. We also noticed ducks and turtles living in at least one dirty pool. Photographs by Terry Miller

Vector control says an unmaintained swimming pool is a safety hazard and a perfect environment for producing mosquitoes. In one month one average sized unmaintained swimming pool could produce over 3 million adult mosquitoes, enough to significantly impair a community’s health.

“Empty pools are our main concern because they quickly collect water and we hardly find them completely dry,” said Mel Cook, the district’s operations manager. “Even with the right equipment, keeping an empty pool completely dry is labor intensive and time consuming; less than an inch of water can start producing mosquitoes in a matter of days,” he continued.

The District has seen an increase in unmaintained swimming pools and they suspect one reason may be a well-intentioned effort to conserve water. “We know our state is in the middle of a severe drought and everyone is focused on saving water. We would like people to know that leaving a pool partially filled will create conditions that produce mosquitoes,” said Jason Farned, public information officer of the SGVMVCD. Farned explains that while the District supports water conservation and does not want to discourage anyone’s efforts to save water, he reminds residents to consider public health as they do so. “It is critical that we all make sure that our rain barrels, fish ponds, and swimming pools do not produce mosquitoes,” he said.

Keeping an empty pool dry is not the answer. “We currently know of over 1,700 pools which need regular inspections,” said district manager Kenn Fujioka.

“Residents who have swimming pools are responsible by law for ensuring they function properly. The District can no longer routinely inspect the growing number of empty pools. We are asking for the public’s cooperation so we do not have to issue abatement notices.”

Lt. Mike Ingram points out that the object of the exercise is not to punish homeowners but educate them on the dangers that can be avoided with a well maintained swimming pool. Leslie Conner, concurs saying that the health of the community is Vector Control’s priority.

California’s Health and Safety Code gives vector control agencies the authority to control vectors within their jurisdiction including imposing fines of up to $1,000 per day for non-compliance. “We are responsible for getting negligent property owners to remove sources of mosquitoes so the health of neighborhoods is protected,” Fujioka stated. While the fines can be substantial fines they are rarely handed out.

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and continuously threatens public health in California. In 2014 there were more than 798 human cases and 31 deaths statewide. The unusually warm winter and continuing drought have vector control agencies concerned that another active year may occur, since these conditions tend to produce more mosquitoes near people. Since there is currently no vaccine or cure for the disease, preventive measures are the most effective way to reduce infections with West Nile virus.

- Photo by Terry Miller

All property owners must keep their swimming pools functioning properly. “Lawmakers must develop regulations that both conserve water and keep pools operating so public health is not compromised. Vector control agencies do not have resources to inspect them all,” said Fujioka. The SGVMVCD also encourages residents of San Gabriel Valley to actively eliminate sources that produce mosquitoes and protect themselves from bites. Here are some tips they provide:

-Examine property regularly to identify and DUMP or DRAIN standing water
-Call and REPORT excessive mosquito activity, especially mosquitoes biting during the day
-Call and REPORT green pools and standing water around neighborhood
-Wear insect REPELLENT and LONG SLEEVES to prevent bites
-Ensure screens have no holes and are tightly closed on windows and doors

Report mosquitoes and/or request service by calling San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District at (626) 814-9466 or by visiting www.SGVMosquito.org

The partnership with The Foothill Air Support Team, otherwise known as FAST, was developed in 1999 after several local cities expressed an interest in airborne law enforcement.

The partnership with The Foothill Air Support Team, otherwise known as FAST, was developed in 1999 after several local cities expressed an interest in airborne law enforcement.
The FAST program has proven to be very successful. It is made up of the following ten partner cities: the City of Alhambra, Arcadia, Covina, Monrovia, Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, and Pomona. Currently each member agency only pays a portion of the annual annual budget for cost recovery purposes associated with PPD’s airborne law enforcement services . The dept. only have a couple TFO’s from those agencies but providing one is not a mandatory part of the agreement.

“It is critical that we all make sure that our rain barrels, fish ponds, and swimming pools do not produce mosquitoes.”

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