LOWELL -- The city's membership in the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project becomes effective today.

Control Project employees will take a number of measures in Lowell to try to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, including targeting larvae in catch basins and setting up surveillance traps to catch mosquitoes and test them.

The district's employees also will conduct spraying when adult mosquito populations reach intolerable levels, though the control project works to reduce the need for pesticide spraying through its prevention and education efforts.

In addition, officials from the control project will be in Lowell weekly during mosquito season to investigate complaints.

Frank Singleton, Lowell's health director, said he expects the city's participation in the mosquito-control district, which the City Council voted for last year, will be beneficial for city residents.

"Now we have a licensed facility we can call on a phone if there is a problem," Singleton said. "They will also be doing plenty of prevention and education work in the city."

The push for the city to consider joining a mosquito-control district started last year after a Lowell woman was diagnosed with West Nile virus.

An investigation showed a female jogger likely picked up the disease from a mosquito bite while jogging in the area of Clark Road in the city's Belvidere section near the Tewksbury line.

Councilors Rodney Elliott and Joseph Mendonca urged the city to be more proactive about the topic, and Mendonca said he is pleased the city's membership in the control district is beginning.

"It is a worthwhile investment to protect our residents, especially since there were cases of mosquito-borne illnesses locally last year," Mendonca said.

The city has made a commitment to be part of the district for at least three years, and joining the group is expected to cost the city about $70,000 annually, said Singleton. The exact cost is still to be determined.

In July, district officials will be in Lowell to investigate complaints on July 2, 10, 17, 24 and 31, according to Singleton.

Those with questions or complaints about mosquitoes in the city can call the control district at 508-393-3055 between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Residents who want their property excluded from any potential pesticide spraying can contact the City Clerk's Office or the control project.

The Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project's membership includes Fitchburg, Leominster, Acton, Billerica, Wilmington, Chelmsford, Tewksbury, Dracut, Westford, Littleton, Lancaster, Lunenberg, Ayer and Devens.

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