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Group Sues Suffolk County, NY to Stop Mosquito Spraying
(April 24, 2003)
According to Newsday.com, a local New York environmental group is suing Suffolk County New York in an effort to block its mosquito control program. The group charges that Suffolk County's mosquito control efforts, which include the spraying of insecticide from helicopters and trucks, cause significant environmental problems. The suit is headed by Kevin McAllister of the non-profit organization, Peconic Baykeeper, which works to protect and develop the environmental and economic health of the Peconic Estuary.

"Many of the materials they are using are highly toxic to fish and invertebrates," McAllister said. "We're killing fish and crabs out there, or having an impact on their survival."

Since 1999, McAllister has argued that Suffolk County has been engaged in the wholesale destruction of its marine estuaries, draining the marshland until it can no longer serve as a filter to keep pollutants out of the bays. In 2002, McAllister filed a similar lawsuit, but because no ruling was made before the year ended, a State Supreme Court justice ultimately dismissed the lawsuit as being "moot."

McAllister's new suit argues that Suffolk County has applied to the state for a 10-year permit to continue its dredging work but has not completed a required environmental review of the work. Instead, he said, the county is trying to simply extend a one-year permit that has expired. "Our grievance is the failure of Suffolk County to follow the law. It will result in environmental harm," said Matthew Atkinson, a Greenport attorney and co-petitioner with McAllister in the lawsuit. Atkinson is on the Board of Directors of Peconic Baykeeper.

Atkinson said the lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, could likely come before a judge in one to four months. The lawsuit would not stop any emergency spraying if the county health department determines that it is necessary to stop an outbreak of West Nile virus or other health threat.