7 News Investigation: Mosquito Magnets
Air Date: 05/05/2005
Reported By: Patrick Fraser
Producer: Diana Reed
Have you ever noticed that mosquitoes are buzzing around your house. Well part of the problem is we live near the Everglades and there is nothing we can do about the mosquitoes. But now one South Florida group is claiming the cities and counties are breeding mosquitoes and endangering everyone in South Florida. Patrick Fraser has the story we call "Mosquito Magnets."

WSVN -- If you walk outside, you don't have to look for mosquitoes -- they'll find you.

In some neighborhoods, swarms of mosquitoes.

Luis Madrugh: "When mosquitoes are breeding its so bad, that between the houses the walls they are black."

And these Dade residents blame their storm drains.

Mike Pryslak: "Instead of fighting the mosquitoes we are actually installing more mosquito breeding areas."

Mike Pryslak became a pest to Miami-Dade county, after he discovered the 80,000 storm drains lining dade streets are often filled with stagnant water.

Mike Pryslak: "It's full of them isn't it."

Those little things swimming in that stagnant water is a mosquito larva. Within a couple of days they'll become blood-sucking mosquitoes.

Mike Pryslak: "It's not just pesky and annoying. It's dangerous. People die from these things."

Among the diseases mosquitoes carry is the deadly west Nile virus.

Mike Pryslak: "And now we are creating situations where we are gonna be breeding mosquitoes and we are gonna have epidemics again."

The reason for the stagnant water in the drains. In South Florida most are built so the runoff flows into a pipe filled with small holes allowing the water to seep slowly into the ground.

To make sure those holes don't get clogged up with leaves and trash, a catch basin sits two feet beneath the pipe.

This water is supposed to leak out thru what's called a weep hole, but look in the storm drain near your home. Odds are its got stagnant water and mosquito larvae.

Mike Pryslak: "We believe the weep hole was installed on hard packed soil. And, because its so hard packed it just does not drain."

After Pryslak complained Miami-Dade Public Works tested 200 of their drains.

Mike Pryslak: "They found mosquitoes breeding in 43 percent of them."

That irritates these people -- what infuriates them: Its illegal to provide a mosquito breeding ground in Florida, but the county health department wont force the county to correct the problem.

Morton Laitner: "There are hundreds of thousands of storm drains. We cannot go to court on all of those and would not be able to prove our case and economically it is not feasible for the county at this time to try to correct all the storm drains."

The county suggests residents who find a drain filled with stagnant water call mosquito control. The'll come out and treat it within a day or two.

But the county also admits they don't have the money to treat every drain. Pryslak's reply: Tell DERM, which installed the drains -- to fix them.

Department Director DERM Carlos Espinosa: "So in essence we live on top of a swamp and therefore its very flat and the water is very close to the surface."

Espinosa says the drains were installed properly but the water level in South Florida is so high they dont always drain properly and lowering the water level is dangerous.

Carlos Espinosa: "We have to be very careful of not overdraining of these canals because then what we do is encourage salt water intrusion and could contaminate our water supplies."

Espinosa like many other county officials believe we simply have to accept mosquitoes in south florida storm drains, Pryslak does not.

Mike Pryslak: "Of course it's absurd. I think the frustrating, the most frustrating part is the science has already been done to show solutions."

And after 18 months of bugging the county, they finally agreed to listen to him.

Mike Pryslak: "And, standing water breeds mosquitoes and that is illegal."

15 county officials heard Pryslak's suggestions for solutions, and agreed to start investigating.

Deputy County Manager Pedro Hernandez: "It's a problem that we can try to see if we can minimize. I know its next to impossible to totally eliminate, but we can see if we can be more effective in controlling this problem of catch basins."

Pryslak will now wait and see. Of course with the Everglades beside us we will always have mosquitoes. But if the basins drain better, we will have fewer mosquitoes.

Mike: "All we need is a drain that really works."

And if that happens, mike Pryslak will no longer be a pest to county officials.




Mosquito Control
Broward: 954-765-4062
Miami Dade: 305-592-1186

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