Mosquitoes loving the economy – larvae could thrive in pools of foreclosed homes

Peter Reuell

The cool backyard swimming pool could be turning into an incubating health menace - an unexpected consequence of the spike in home mortgage foreclosures.

“More than anything else, there are two things with pools that have me concerned,'' said Steve Calichman, director of public health in Wayland.

“One is an unsupervised pool where, God forbid, somebody drowns.

“Two, there are an awful lot of residential pools out there I worry about, even more so, with the state of the economy and the number of houses foreclosed on, either the pool or the pool cover (could) allow tens of thousands of mosquitoes to develop.''

As homes are foreclosed on, Calichman said, he fears pool maintenance will fall by the wayside, allowing pools to become incubators for mosquito larvae, which can transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Franklin Public Health Director David McKearney agreed that poor pool maintenance is a recurring problem.

“I deal with that every spring,'' he said. “Most of the cases I've dealt with, it's been an occupied house. The pool's just been neglected.''

Every year, McKearney said, he deals with two to three such cases, which are typically reported by concerned neighbors.

Solutions, he said, can be as simple as draining the water out of the pool to bringing the pool back into working order and properly chlorinating the water to using larvicide to kill off mosquitoes.

“Hopefully we hear about them,'' Marlborough Public Health Director Bob Landry said of abandoned pools. “By the time people are a few weeks into pool season, we probably get anywhere from two to maybe four or five calls.''

As in other communities, Landry said he tries to work with homeowners to fix the problem, but that can be easier said than done in some cases.

In cases where a home has been foreclosed on, officials said, ownership of the property is transferred to the bank, making it difficult if not impossible to determine who is responsible for the upkeep on a property.

“With foreclosures happening, we see it a little more, and it makes it harder to track down,'' said James Starbard, a sanitarian for the Framingham Board of Health. “We've actually done about three or four of those pools this year. The owner is cited under the public health nuisance law, and ordered to drain it or bring it up to working order.''

“We recommend draining of the pool,'' Milford Public Health Director Paul Mazzuchelli said. “There is nothing good or right about an abandoned pool.''

Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428 or