Asking for help from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection



From: Rach, Timothy [mailto:Timothy.Rach@dep.state.fl.us]
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 12:15 PM
To: Mike Pryslak
Subject: RE: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains

Mr. Pryslak,

To my knowledge there isn't anyone with the Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) investigating this issue.

Mosquito Control issues are handled by the individual Counties' Mosquito
Control Program. 

The DEP is primarily a regulatory agency, although the permits we issue
sometimes are related to human health issues (e.g. permitting of wastewater
treatment plants, drinking water plants, etc).  I'm not sure why the
Department of Health references our agency in their letter to you.  They
probably did that since they assumed we were involved in the permitting of
the storm drains.

Both the DEP and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) review
and issue stormwater related permits.  Based upon the Operating Agreement
between these two agencies the construction of the storm drains most likely
was permitted by the SFWMD.

If you are concerned that the storm drains were not constructed as they were
proposed and permitted, then you would need to contact the agency that
permitted that activity and request that a compliance inspection take place.


In this case it would seem that SFWMD would have been the permitting agency
reviewing the proposal to install storm drains.  If they aren't functioning
as proposed, maybe the SFWMD can suggest some improvements to the system.

The SFWMD can be contacted via their website: www.sfwmd.gov under "Who to
Contact", which includes their main phone number at 1-800-432-2045 or
561-686-8800.  They also have a service center in Miami (1-800-250-4300).

I would also recommend that you continue to try to work with the Miami-Dade
Mosquito Control Division to see if they can address your concerns.

Sincerely,

Timothy Rach
Assistant District Director
Southeast District



-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Pryslak
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 10:37 AM
To: Rach, Timothy
Subject: FW: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains


Mr. Rach,

Can you please provide me with the name and phone number of the person
within the Department of Environmental Protection leading the investigation
of this complaint.

In reference to Lt. Gorman's comment, "that the Florida Department of Health
and local Mosquito
control boards are tasked with handling Mosquito issues," both the Florida
Department of Health and the Miami-Dade County Public Works' Mosquito
Control Division have refused to help:

- The Florida Department of Health says it would be an "unfeasible burden on
Agency resources" to enforce the law.

- The county's "Mosquito Control Division does not routinely inspect storm
drains due to funding limitations" so their policy is to do nothing until
they receive specific complaints from citizens. However, for each citizen
that complains, they will only apply larvicide one time to the two or three
catch basins found within 100 yards of the citizen's address. It doesn't
matter that individual inspectors who come out know that mosquitoes are
breeding in more catch basins; they are only allowed to apply larvicides
near the properties registering official complaints.

The bottom line is that mosquitoes are actively breeding in Miami-Dade
County storm drains and no government agency is abating the mosquito
breeding and no government agency is enforcing the state's sanitary nuisance
laws regarding mosquito breeding.  The citizens of Miami-Dade County need
help to eliminate these dangerous sanitary nuisances.

More information can be found on a web site I published at www.pryslak.org.

Thank you,
Mike Pryslak
10850 SW 42nd Street
Miami, Florida  33165-4829
Phone 305-221-2582


-----Original Message-----
From: Gorman, Timothy
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 9:59 AM
To: Mike Pryslak
Subject: RE: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains

Mr. Pryslak,

The assistant director of the Southeast District, Mr. Tim Rach, is who the
information was forwarded to.

Lt. Timothy Gorman

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Pryslak
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 9:21 AM
To: Gorman, Timothy
Subject: RE: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains


Lieutenant Gorman,

Thank you.  Can you please provide me with the name and phone number of the
person in the South East DEP Regulatory Office who is responsbile for this
matter so I may contact them directly?

Thank you,
Mike Pryslak
305-221-2582

-----Original Message-----
From: Gorman, Timothy [mailto:Timothy.Gorman@dep.state.fl.us]
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 8:43 AM
To: Mike Pryslak
Subject: RE: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains

Mr. Pryslak,

Thank You for your concern with this matter. I have passed this information
on to the South East DEP Regulatory Office located in West Palm Beach. Also
please be advised that the Florida Department of Health and local Mosquito
control boards are tasked with handling Mosquito issues. As far permitting
for storm water culverts etc... you might want to check with the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers or the South Water Management District.

Thank You again for your concerns with this issue.

Lt. Timothy Gorman

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Pryslak
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2005 9:17 PM
To: Gorman, Timothy
Subject: RE: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains


Lieutenant Gorman,

Can you please tell me the status of your investigation of this problem?

Thank you,
Mike Pryslak
305-221-2582

-----Original Message-----
From: Gorman, Timothy [mailto:Timothy.Gorman@dep.state.fl.us]
Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 10:15 AM
To: Mike Pryslak
Subject: RE: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains

Sir,

I received your e-mail and I will be getting back to you in a short time. I
will need to look into this further.

Thank you for your concern,

Lt. Timothy Gorman

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Pryslak
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 5:32 PM
To: Gorman, Timothy
Subject: Mosquitoes breeding in 3000 Miami-Dade storm drains


Dear Lieutenant Gorman:

Miami-Dade County is violating Florida Statute 386.041(1)(e) and I have been
unable to find any person or agency willing to help enforce the law or focus
on the problem since October 2003.  I was referred to your agency by Bill
Stevens of Miami-Dade's Road and Bridge Division of Miami-Dade County's
Public Works Department.  I hope you are willing and able to help. 

In the summer of 2003, then Miami-Dade County Mayor, Alex Penelas, announced
the beginning of "the most aggressive flood mitigation program in the
history of Miami-Dade County" born from "an unprecedented partnership
between the County, the State and the Federal government."
[http://www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/countycitizen/speaking_of.htm]  Although I'm
certain this program was crafted from only the best of intentions-aiming to
reduce future flood damage and cleanse our waters following Best Management
Practices from The Clean Water Act-unfortunately it forgot long-standing
public health laws.  Internally, the county has labeled this as DERM's DORM
Program.  DERM is the county's Department of Environmental Resources
Management and DORM is its Division of Recovery and Mitigation
[http://www.miamidade.gov/derm/programs/division_recovery_mitigation.asp].
(Although Mayor Penelas was quoted as saying the program budget was $1
billion, I believe the budget was about $70 million; but I'm not sure.) 

Since then, about 3000 new storm drains were installed in much of the 24
square miles bounded by the Palmetto Expressway, Tamiami Trail, Southwest
137th Avenue and Sunset Drive.  Unfortunately most of the catch basins in
these storm drains permanently hold standing water that breeds mosquitoes
which can spread diseases.  (A 15 minute walk around a block or two in
either my neighborhood or nearby neighborhoods will find a dozen or so catch
basins with stagnant, standing water, likely to be breeding mosquitoes.)
Both Florida statutes and Miami-Dade County ordinances define "the creation,
maintenance, or causing of any condition capable of breeding ... mosquitoes"
as an illegal sanitary nuisance.  (I've published links to the laws and
other references on this subject at www.pryslak.org.)  The sanitary nuisance
laws exist to protect the public from life-threatening diseases and
illnesses.  While these laws are rarely discussed, they are paramount to
public safety and should be strictly enforced.  They're not being enforced
in Miami-Dade County.

Starting in late 2003, I've tried to work with the county to have the
problem resolved, and recently tried to get the Florida Department of Health
to help.  I've made no progress, but have learned some disturbing things:

- DERM's engineers don't consider mosquito breeding to be a problem; their
only objectives for storm drain projects are to prevent flooding damage and
prevent pollutants from stormwater runoff from reaching open bodies of
water.  They believe mosquito problems are the responsibility of Public
Works' Mosquito Control Division.  Because of their beliefs, any future
similar projects are likely to be built with the same dangerous design.

- The Mosquito Control Division does not have the funds to routinely inspect
and treat mosquito problems in catch basins, so their policy is to do
nothing until they receive specific complaints from citizens.  However, for
each citizen that complains, they will only apply larvicide one time to the
two or three catch basins found within 100 yards of the citizen's address.
It doesn't matter that individual inspectors who come out know that
mosquitoes are breeding in more catch basins; they are only allowed to apply
larvicides near the properties registering official complaints.  (The good
news is they come out quickly as often as called.  Unfortunately, few
citizens call with complaints, I believe because they aren't aware of the
process or the dangers from mosquitoes.)

- The Miami-Dade County Health Department (and its parent agency, The
Florida Department of Health) won't enforce the laws.  They say it would be
an "unfeasible burden on Agency resources" to enforce the law.  They say if
they file a lawsuit against the county, they must cite particular locations
that are at that time a sanitary nuisance.  However, as soon as they file,
the county will apply larvicides to those specific catch basins and have the
lawsuit dismissed because "the sanitary nuisance has been abated."  Because
of this, they won't do anything.  It doesn't matter to them that the catch
basins are designed to hold standing water and will again be breeding
mosquitoes in the near future.  In fact, it is their "Legal Department's
understanding that many storm drains are capable of breeding mosquitoes."
They won't even ask the county to follow the recommendations from the
Centers for Disease Control.  They just don't see this as a public health
issue that warrants their involvement.

- California recently completed a comprehensive, multi-year, multi-agency
study that considered this problem.  The California study found solutions
that include specific designs of stormwater systems that meet all Clean
Water Act requirements, achieve all FEMA Flood Mitigation objectives and
virtually eliminate mosquito breeding.  There's no reason for Miami-Dade to
continue using old, mosquito-breeding designs when the California study
provides the solutions. 

- Based on the California study, it will cost our county's Mosquito Control
Division more than $2 million each year to continually abate mosquito
production with larvicide in 3000 catch basins.  The county is trying to get
federal funds for routine storm drain larvicide treatments, but is not
trying to modify storm drain designs to eliminate the cause of the problem.
As concerns for chemical pollution increase, the number of larvicides that
are approved for use in storm drains gets smaller.  Soon there may not be an
allowable, effective larvicide.

- "Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism -- over one
million people die from mosquito-borne diseases every year."  [Tom Floore,
Public Health Entomology Research & Education Center, Florida Agricultural &
Mechanical University - http://www.mosquito.org/info.php].  We don't think
mosquitoes are dangerous in the United States because public health laws
were passed several generations ago that have virtually eliminated all
mosquito-borne illness in our country.  We have no memory of the suffering
of our ancestors, so we're ignorant of the dangers.

I don't see how the Florida Department of Health and its branch, the
Miami-Dade County Health Department, can ignore this obvious public health
threat considering their mission is to "promote and protect the health of
our community through prevention and preparedness today, for a healthier
tomorrow."  Their own web site includes a fact sheet
[http://www.dadehealth.org/downloads/wnvfactsheet_081104a_en.doc] that says,
"the best way to prevent infection from ... viruses that you can get from
mosquitoes is to avoid mosquitoes' bites and reduce their population around
your home" and "to reduce the mosquito population around your home, get rid
of all standing water...."  So we now have tens of thousands of Miami-Dade
homes surrounded by standing water in most of these new storm drains, and
the Health Department sees no reason to interfere.  Why aren't alarm bells
ringing when Miami-Dade's Director of Public Works reports that a one-time
sample of 202 of these storm drains in December 2004 found 43% to be
breeding mosquitoes?  What stronger evidence is needed to know that these
storm drains are designed, installed or maintained in such a way that they
pose a threat to public health?  It is disingenuous for the Health
Department to take the position that it is dangerous for individual citizens
to allow standing water on their private property, while it is safe for
government agencies to allow standing water on public property.  The
mosquitoes don't know the difference.

With the November 2, 2004 passing of the $378 million bond issue to
construct and improve water, sewer and flood control systems in Miami-Dade
County, it is imperative that we change our public policy now to require
that all drainage programs focus on public health and safety before property
protection and water quality.  No more storm drains should be installed with
the current, potentially deadly design.  Construction crews currently
installing storm drains with the mosquito-breeding design should be stopped
now.  Existing storm drains that breed mosquitoes must be eliminated or
modified so they comply with public health laws. 

This is a wide-spread problem; Miami-Dade is not alone.  The California
study reported that of 72 agencies across the country that completed their
questionnaire, 86% reported mosquito breeding in drainage systems.  Congress
has heard testimony on the problem.  In 2002, there were 552 cases of West
Nile Virus in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) resulting in 28 human deaths.

In February I met with Miami-Dade County's Mayor's office where I provided a
notebook with printed copies of several letters and external resources.  All
the documents I provided for the Mayor's notebook can be found at
www.pryslak.org/mayor/.

Obviously there's a lot of overwhelming information here.  I suggest that
the first place to start is to read the following article from the
March/April 2002 issue of Stormwater, the Journal for Surface Water Quality
Professionals found at

http://www.forester.net/sw_0203_dark.html

This one article describes the problem, the language used in the industry,
and discusses the solutions found from the California study.

Please, help me with this problem.  I'm getting nowhere and I need help.

Sincerely,

Mike Pryslak
10850 SW 42nd Street
Miami, Florida  33165-4829
305-221-2582