Sacramento County residents are reporting an uneasy mixture of confusion, concern and curiosity as mosquito-control officials prepare for a fourth consecutive night of aerial spraying to combat mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.
Some residents welcomed the spraying while others left town, illustrating the spectrum of reaction that has greeted the abatement effort.
"We're not in the spray area, and I'm wondering why," said Barbara Abel, a 66-year-old Rancho Cordova resident who recalls trucks spraying DDT in her neighborhood every summer. "I heard on the news that it's now an epidemic. I cannot understand why people are complaining about a method to get rid of the threat. If spraying will get rid of the majority of the mosquitoes, then let's spray, let's get rid of the threat."
Carmichael resident Catherine Bausch decided to take her children on an impromptu vacation to the Monterey Bay to get away from the spraying.
"They say the (insecticide) is harmless, but my gut tells me different," she said. "To me, any amount that might come in contact with my children is too much. As a mother, my priority is keeping them safe."
River Park resident Cindy Marcum postponed a planned outdoor dinner party when she figured out the spray area would extend to the American River, just one block north of her neighborhood.
While she favors killing infected mosquitoes, the spraying has had a surreal quality, she said.
"It was weird seeing the (spray) planes going by last night," she said Wednesday. "It was a bizarre sight, kind of like we were being strafed."
Marcum awoke Wednesday morning to a thin film of dead mosquitoes covering her backyard swimming pool.
She doesn't plan to drain the pool and says an automatic skimmer should take care of the bug carcasses.
Despite repeated assurances by officials with the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District that the pesticides are harmless, other residents worried about possible effects - short-and long-term.
Retired state worker Nancy Leitner is still perplexed by a distinct odor that filled her home Monday night. She said it caused her to have an allergic reaction and two of her cats to sneeze and behave oddly.
It was 7:55 p.m., five minutes before the scheduled start of the spraying. Suddenly, her home was filled with the overpowering scent of flowers. She said she uses pyrethrum, the active ingredient in the pesticide being sprayed, in her garden and recognized the odor.
By 8:30, the smell was intolerable, and she opened the windows. The scent dissipated within minutes.
Officials said spraying didn't begin until after 8:30 that night, and Bee reporters at the scene said no planes took off until 9:15 p.m.
"It's totally bizarre, and I can't explain it, but I experienced it," said an uneasy Leitner, who is taking Benadryl to combat mild allergic reactions.
She added that her son's car was covered with a thin residue the next morning, which mosquito district officials said didn't come from the spraying.
Leitner remains skeptical.
"If it's safe, then why all the precautions?" she asked of the safety measures recommended by officials.
Jennifer DeLugach, a pregnant mother of two from Fair Oaks, saw her growing concern over the spraying turn her into an accidental activist.
She has spearheaded an online petition, gathering more than 150 signatures of those opposed to the spraying, and attended meetings to voice her opposition.
"This is a huge amount of pesticide being dispersed over our community repeatedly," said DeLugach, who is also a registered nurse. "I haven't done anything like this before, but I feel like I'm part of a biological experiment against my will."
She doesn't expect officials to alter spraying plans any time soon but says she is signed on for the long haul.
"We will continue to try and get organized to bring some changes in the future," she said.
Last summer, Elverta resident Tim Bernal found dead magpies, which tested positive for West Nile. He has found dead birds at his home again this summer and thinks the spraying should have been done sooner.
"I was out barbecuing when the planes flew over," he said. "I didn't think it was a big deal. As long as it kills the bugs, that's all that matters."
The cast of the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival moved rehearsals inside because of the spraying. The company will be performing "Great Songs of the Sky," a tribute to '60s pop star Donovan, at an outdoor amphitheater beginning Aug. 26.
Act 2 opens with the song "Only To Be Expected." The lyrics tell of "being out of sync with nature's ways' as we "poison the water and poison the air," said Lucy D'Mot, music director of the revue.
"The irony of the whole situation was almost amusing," she said.
About the writer:
- The Bee's Erika Chavez can be reached at (916) 321-1016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.