Midge eradication on Back River begins, following Hogan’s executive order
The Maryland Department of Agriculture—in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources— began treating a targeted area of the Back River in Essex (Baltimore County) as part of a pilot program to control midge populations in the area. Treatment began on Monday, September 11, during daylight hours.
The department will treat the area by boat, using an apparatus designed specifically for midge control, which will apply a Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti)-based insecticide to the riverbed. Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria found in soils worldwide. It is a bacterial insecticide, not a chemical, and is only harmful to a very limited variety of organisms including midge, black fly, and mosquito larvae and a few other aquatic Dipteran (flies) insects. Bti is not harmful to humans, fish, crabs or other aquatic invertebrates
Governor Larry Hogan signed Executive Order 01.01.2017.17 in August, which directed the Maryland Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to begin this eradication of the midge population in the Back River in Baltimore County. The targeted treatments will use a biological product approved for organic farming that was recommended by a panel of scientists and will have no impact on the environment or other species. Midges, which have posed a nuisance since 2008, have had significant economic ramifications for tourism, local businesses, and community facilities in the county.
“We have heard the repeated call of local residents loud and clear,” said Hogan. “Our administration is proud to take action to provide immediate and muchneeded relief from this ongoing nuisance and provide further upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.”
According to a 2014 Department of Natural Resources study, nutrient pollution stemming from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant is the likely cause of the midge infestation in the area. While upgrades to the Back River plant are on schedule, the infestation still poses an immediate impact to marinas, restaurants with outdoor seating, and other small businesses, as well as activities at a local senior center.
“I commend Governor Hogan for his leadership on this issue by launching a pilot initiative to help marinas, restaurants and local residents,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “The state is taking action, despite the county’s refusal to act, to reduce the nuisance of midges so Marylanders can enjoy the Back River.”
“We’ve been working on the midge problem for years now. That work has involved a lot of research, educating government agencies, and getting decision makers to understand the scope of the problem,” said Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7). “I am extremely pleased that Governor Hogan is taking action when others would not, and especially in the face of those who attempted to make a quality of life issue a political one. “
Earlier this year, Governor Hogan provided state funding to mitigate the midge infestation in the Back River area of Baltimore County, following multiple refusals by the county to address the issue. In October 2016, Governor Hogan offered to have the state split the cost of a treatment program, but county officials declined the state’s offer. The administration moved ahead, dedicating over $330,000 to fund treatments for target “hot spots” in the region starting in spring 2017 to provide relief for local residents and businesses through the summer and early fall, while working to assess the treatments’ effectiveness. However, the state’s action was delayed by Baltimore County, the General Assembly, and the Attorney General.
To date, the state has given $288 million in financial aid to Baltimore County to upgrade the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant with biological nutrient and enhanced nutrient removal technologies, which is anticipated to provide a long-term solution to the midge infestation, and today’s Executive Order will enable the state to move forward with delivering immediate relief for the community.