Posted on Thu, Jun. 16, 2005

Mosquitoes swamp communities
Two West Kendall communities, invaded by an unusually high number of mosquitoes, said faulty drainage systems in their neighborhoods are causing the problem.

South Floridians have long dealt with the persistence of mosquitoes during the summer months. But homeowners living in two Southwest Miami-Dade communities said the presence of mosquitoes this year seems to have multiplied.

The culprit? The completion of a faulty experiment drainage restoration project in Winston Park and Westwood Lakes. When it rains, the drains are left with standing water, providing a breeding habitat for mosquitoes.

Typically, work crews open the seeping holes that allow moisture to run off in the drains where the water level is not as high as it is in Miami. But as an experiment, the seeping holes were drilled in some parts of both neighborhoods -- a mistake, county officials said.

''It was part of an evaluation we were doing for these two specific areas,'' said Dorian Valdes, a division supervisor with the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management. ``We realized there was no benefit to continue.''

Now, homeowners in both neighborhoods are left fighting off the unwanted guests.

The project to improve storm-water runoff throughout the county was funded mostly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thanks to the severe flooding that hit South Florida during Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the no-name storm of 2000.

Mosquito control began to receive complaints in the Winston Park and Westwood Lakes in 2003, said Public Works officials.

County work crews have sprayed the area, attacking mosquito larva before it hatches. The insecticide used to kill the mosquitoes doesn't harm the aquifer, they said.

Still, the problem has annoyed homeowners, including West Kendall resident Miriam Rodriguez, who has been living in her Winston Park home since 1985.

The mosquito problem has never been like it is today, she said. She no longer sits out in her patio and shuts her door almost instantly.

''They fixed the drains, but they left the mosquitoes,'' Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also is worried about the West Nile virus, a disease transmitted through mosquitoes.

''It's a huge problem in the afternoon, especially when I get home from work at 5 p.m,'' she said. ``I don't see them. I just feel the bites.''

But Marlon Nelms, the county's mosquito control chief, said about 99 percent of the mosquitoes in the drains are Southern House Mosquitoes, which don't bite.

''There is a mosquito problem countywide,'' Nelms said.

The problem goes from bad to worse when homeowners don't get rid of standing water. Domestic mosquitoes are known for biting. The enjoy breeding in places such as flower pots, fountains or tires -- not the drains.

They are active at dusk, dawn and at night. The most important thing to remember this summer, Nelms said, is to protect yourself.

If you believe mosquitoes are a problem in your neighborhood, call mosquito control at 305-592-1186.

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