Tampa unveils aggressive plan to kill mosquitoes, fight Zika

Efforts will be hindered by absentee landlords
Posted at 10:56 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 02:45:30-04

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stood in front of an abandoned property holding bug spray, mosquito larvae killer, and the best of intentions to protect Tampa from a virus where the frontline is just a few hundred miles south.

The city purchased 3,600 Mosquito Dunks, which is a mosquito control product that the manufacturer says is “America’s best selling home owner mosquito control product. The only product with BTI, a bacteria toxic only to mosquito larvae, that lasts 30 days and treats 100 square feet of surface water.”

The 45 members of code enforcement along with 38 neighborhood enhancement workers will be adding dunks to their arsenal. This is the first time the city has decided to take a shot at mosquito control, something that is usually left up to Hillsborough County.

The home the mayor stood in front of for his press conference at 2306 Elcoe Drive in Tampa is the perfect example of a mosquito breeding ground. It’s abandoned, the pool in the backyard is a disaster, and there is no one that can dump standing water. It is also an example of something else, just how difficult it will be for city workers to get onto private property to drop the dunks in stagnant mosquito larvae infested water.  When asked how he will get the dunks to hard to reach places Buckhorn cracked a joke.

“That's one the lawyers are going to have to answer for me, clearly it would make all the sense in the world, maybe we'll teach them to throw from the front yard and get it into the backyard,” Buckhorn said.  

When Buckhorn took office in 2011 he said there were an estimated 4,000 abandoned properties. That number has dropped, but there are still thousands of abandoned homes and hundreds more that are on the list for demolition. The frustrations code enforcement faces to protect citizens from mosquito borne illnesses isn’t going away any time soon. Not until laws are changed to give the city more leeway to go onto private property during emergency situations.

“Property rights prevail and it handcuffs us sometimes,” Sal Ruggiero the Manager of the Neighborhood Enhancement Division said.  “But, we are going to help the public we are going to do what's right.”

The public can help the city too.  If you know of a location with standing water, rotting pools, fountains, or anything else that can breed mosquitoes give them a call at 813-274-5545.