County tackles mosquito problem

The house on Scotts Way sits in a nice neighborhood amid well-maintained houses and lawns. But a peek at the pool in the backyard reveals green brackish water that could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

"There goes froggy," Fred Koehle said as a pair of long legs disappeared into a fog of green algae on the bottom of the pool. He said larvacide tablets he threw into the pool must be working because there aren't any budding mosquitoes visible.

Houses such as this one, vacant since a foreclosure a couple of years ago, present a problem when their pools are not maintained, Mr. Koehle said. As foreclosures rise, the problem could only get worse.

Mr. Koehle and colleagues in Mosquito Control with the Richmond County Health Department are enforcing the county's mosquito ordinance, which states businesses and homeowners cannot allow stagnant water to collect on their property.

Mosquito Control has cited Days Inn and Suites, 3037 Washington Road, for not maintaining its pool, Mr. Koehle said. The agency is already tracking 75-85 abandoned or improperly maintained pools across the county, he said.

It can be expensive. Every 120 days the Scotts Way pool takes several larvacide tablets at $3 a piece.

Sarasota County, Fla., is taking a different approach. The county, also beset by abandoned pools, drops Gambusia minnows into the stagnant water, said Dr. Lyman Roberts, the director of mosquito control.

"They are voracious eaters of mosquito larvae," he said. "It's a relatively cheap way to make sure that these pools don't become mosquito nurseries."

Richmond County is trying to raise some of the fish on its own but lacks a facility to store and maintain them, Mr. Koehle said.

"It would be a big help and in the long run it would end up being cheaper than the chemicals and the time to keep going out there," he said.

Sarasota had used the fish off and on for year, Dr. Roberts said.

"It's not been a big issue until the economic downturn, which resulted in a lot of foreclosures and un-maintained pools," he said. "I would say right now, we're getting 10 or 15 calls a month at least for abandoned pools."

Richmond County's list is also growing, Mr. Koehle said. Most are called in by neighbors complaining of mosquitoes.

Pat Bradley, a Scotts Way resident, flagged down Mr. Koehle in the street to point out the dirty pool nearly two years ago. As Mr. Koehle left after the latest visit, she stopped him again.

"Thanks for taking care of us," she said.

"We'll do the best we can for you," he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

HOW TO HELP

Eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes can help keep their numbers down. Richmond County Health Department Mosquito Control recommends getting rid of standing water in the yard by:

- Putting sand or cement in tree holes

- Cleaning out gutters regularly

- Keeping boats covered or overturned

- Stocking ponds with mosquito-eating fish

- Changing the water in the birdbath every few days

To report a mosquito problem or for more information, call Richmond County Mosquito Control at (706) 667-4241 or e-mail augmosq@dhr.state.ga.us