Over the last few years, waterfront property owners in Baltimore County, particularly near Back River, have warned local officials of a growing problem known as midges, which are non-biting nuisance insects that look like mosquitos. Hearing those concerns, County Executive Johnny Olszewski asked personnel in the county’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability to put together a mitigation strategy, and on Nov. 17, the first step of that strategy was undertaken.

Valent BioSciences, a company specializing in the development of biorational chemical products, and its program applicators applied larvacide to 50 acres of Back River last week in an effort to kill midge larvae in the sediment, according to EPS director David Lykens. This was a “proof of concept,” he said, to see if the treatment, which was applied via helicopter, would be effective.

County council members approved a resolution two days prior providing for the larvacide treatment at no cost to the county.

“It is incredible to finally get the county involved, and that it is able to use a product that works so well and will not cause damage to the water,” Desiree Greaver, program manager for Back River Restoration Committee, said, adding that midge swarms this past year have been among the worst seen.

The larvacide used is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that specifically targets larvae and is safe to non-target organisms.

If the treatment is effective, the county will look into paying for an expansion of the program across the rest of Back River and other acres of waterfront. EPS is testing the water after it goes through treatment to see if it was effective.

Midge concentrations were particularly high in this section of Back River, Lykens said, and it is also an area in which most of the complaints were filed through the county’s midge reporting application on its website.

Part of the reason for this, Lykens said, could be that it is near Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, and while the state has spent millions of dollars to upgrade the plant, nutrients from the sewage outfalls have deposited into the sediment, which have, in turn, increased midge populations.

“If the treatment plant does not fix its problems of discharging untreated sewage, then it does not make sense to do this,” Greaver said, referring to pollution violations found at the facility earlier this year. “While this initiative from the county is wonderful, we need to get those issues corrected and keep them corrected, or else this will be a lost cause and a waste of money.”

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