As the warmer months approach in Louisiana, so will mosquitoes, but Baton Rouge is looking at alternative solutions to combat the issue.
The Center for Disease Control awarded Baton Rouge a $605,000 grant to buy an unorthodox solution... a tire shredder. The grant was originally awarded to Puerto Rico, but a hurricane hit and pushed it to the second-place bidder, Baton Rouge.
Stagnant tires are the perfect environment for a mosquito to breed. According to Baton Rouge's Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control's Interim Director Randy Vaeth, abandoned tires, like the ones seen all across the East Baton Rouge Parish, collect rainwater that isn't able to evaporate and create a warm, dark breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Vaeth said that tires are a bigger problem than people think, noting that the Asian tiger mosquito, one of the most invasive species in the world in his words, was brought to the U.S. from Japan in 1985 by none other than abandoned tires.
Vaeth and MARC will analyze tire locations and their mosquito populations before and after the tires are shredded, using mosquito and mosquito egg traps. He anticipates that once the tires are removed, the areas will have far fewer mosquitoes and eggs.
"Logically, it all makes sense," he said.
As of March 10, 2020, the tire shredder will be placed at the Baton Rouge North Maintenance Lot, a city-ran facility located in an unincorporated area between Baker and Zachary, Louisiana.
This location was recommended by Mayor-President Broome as a middle ground for council members like District Two's Chauna Banks, who was opposed to the original site, the old MARC facility within the 70807, and those who supported the original location.
Banks and company were concerned that the facility would add to the environmental injustice North Baton Rouge already faces.
She told Tiger TV that she wouldn't allow the facility to be placed in her district because "this is an area over consumed by a lot of negative, environmental locations," referring to the 20 plus petrochemical plants and largest landfill in the state located within North Baton Rouge. She even had conversations with the NAACP, with plans to possibly sue if the facility had been placed within her district.
Matt Watson, district 11's councilman, told Tiger TV that the real environmental injustice is the hoards of hidden, dumped tires across Baton Rouge, creating blight and mosquito issues for the entire parish.
Jeffey Ferry, a Baton Rouge citizen, said that he thinks that people would be more inclined to bring the tires to a specific place if one existed, instead of dumping onside the street, in ditches or in public parks.
MARC was awarded the grant, but Baum Environmental will operate the facility. Baum will gather abandoned tires from across the parish, shred them and sell the material for reuse. Baum won't charge the city or the taxpayer anything for the service. This hasn't been the case so far.
Tires that have been picked up by city maintenance are currently held at the Baton Rouge South Maintenance Lot, uncovered, holding stagnant rainwater. If the city does want to dispose of them, it has to go through a third party. The city has to pay Colt Scrap Tire Center $500 every time to come pick up the tires from the South Maintenance Lot.
Watson has been spearheading the program since the Fall of 2019 and feels confident that this tire shredder will help Baton Rouge and the quality of life for its residents.
"We're in a wonderful situation here in Baton Rouge to lead to nation in something totally positive," he said.
The location of the shredder must be locked down before it can be purchased, but the CDC grant expires this summer, according to Councilwoman Banks.
Despite the past controversy over the location, Watson is confident that shredder will be bought in time, and the facility will be up and running before the Fall of 2020.