Open Integrated Pest Management Education Resource

Fighting the Bite With Multiagency Mosquito IPM Efforts in San Francisco 08/02/2018




San Francisco IPM TAC – Fighting the Bite

Chris Geiger:

00:00:12

Welcome to our meeting for those of you who have never been to one of these. I'd like to introduce Luis now. We've worked together with Pestec for many, many years and they have been on the forefront of almost every IPM issue you can think of. It's been a great working relationship and they came up with the idea of our current approach to mosquito control in the storm water catchment basins along with, you know, in consultation with other departments starting with the Mountain Bike Squad. Do you, did you have a name for them?


Luis Agurto:

00:00:49

Mosquito Abatement Couriers.


Chris Geiger:

00:00:50

Oh, okay. Mosquito Abatement Couriers are making the rounds of 22,000 stormwater catchment basins in the City, which is a lot. So, I'm really happy that you're here, Luis. And the topic is the project that he's been working on with city agencies and with nonprofits as well. He'll talk about that, on mapping out our IPM activities with regard to mosquitoes. So, I'll turn it loose, turn you loose.


Luis Agurto:

00:01:21

So, that's a big part of this--is actually going to be correcting the record. We didn't come up with the catch basin program. There was a whole process of figuring out where we should be targeting our mosquito abatement efforts, so we could confront this threat of West Nile virus that was coming early in the 2000's. We did come up with that. And that was you know, they say, the mother of invention is necessity. That's what it was. We were housed in a little office on Mission Street in the back of a Farmers Insurance office. And when we got the call to start treating 24,000 catch basins for mosquitoes, we went out into the world and started doing our survey and we found that you couldn't do this by vehicle. Catch basins are obscured by you know, vehicles that are parked on the streets.


Luis Agurto:

00:02:12

And so, we had to do by foot and we found that doing it by bicycle was a more efficient way of doing it. So, I want to take you through the story of that right now. How did we get to where we are today, where we have an ongoing treatment cycle of these catch basins and how we're applying the IPM process to it? Very quickly, as always, I need to define again what IPM means to us and for me. It's really a collaborative data driven decision-making process. So, and it's collaborative because we're working with a multifaceted team or a multidisciplinary team to try to understand the problem from the broadest viewpoint possible and try to come up with the best strategies for controlling these pests in a long-term way. So, I want to kind of go through the IPM methodology for you and I'm going to use the analogy of the IPM or extraterrestrial invasion.


Luis Agurto:

00:03:05

This is something that comes up for me at home all the time. I know that IPM as a methodology is this universal problem-solving tool and in business we talk about the quality a cycle, where you plan, you do, you check to see what happens with your actions, and then you act, and you try to make it better. In Hollywood, they apply the exact same IPM process to dealing with these IPM, or these extraterrestrials. So, many times we have a UFO come on the screen and we have to start making a plan on how to deal with it. In the real world and in San Francisco when it came to mosquitoes, the threat was from West Nile virus. West Nile virus was a new disease that they picked up in New York City for the first time in 1999. And within four years this virus had moved across the country and made its way to California. By 2004, within one-year, West Nile virus was detected in every county in California.


Luis Agurto:

00:04:06

And one year later, the City and County of San Francisco, implemented this catch basin treatment program. And so, this is our team, I think in 2015, Mosquito Abatement Couriers. We call them the MAC team. And, there's been many iterations on what we're treating, how we're treating and how we're recording our activities. And that's really the part of the evolution I want to emphasize today is our data collection and reporting system that's been evolving over the years. And if we get anything from this talk today, my goal is that a collaboration really does drive continual improvement. There’re really two goals in IPM. One is a long-term pest management and the other one is continual improvement. And when we're improving, we want to be improving the value that our activities provide, and we want to be improving, the risk that our activities are imposed, and we want to reduce that risk.


Luis Agurto:

00:05:08

So, the first step in IPM is to assemble your team. And in Hollywood when we're talking about extraterrestrials, usually the team is a military forces or special operations and then some specialists in some field of science. Many times, you have biologists or linguists, mathematicians, or even astrobiologist. For us, the team was, the Department of Public Health, the environmental health section that was really the driving force for mounting this effort for mosquito management in San Francisco. But also, the San Francisco PUC who owns many of the assets that could, create mosquito problems. And so, they were on the ground at the very beginning. Public Works. We were hoping that our partners at Public Works, the hydraulics engineers, the people that are in charge of managing the information systems for the infrastructure of San Francisco would be here. They've been an essential part of this whole process from the very beginning.


Luis Agurto:

00:06:08

The San Francisco Department of the Environment was part of the team at the time they were acting as advisors; checking the strategies that we wanted to employ to make sure that we were choosing the lowest risks options to the environment. And then we were on the team as well providing some consultation and pest control activities. In San Francisco anyone that owns property is on this IPM team for mosquito abatement. So, it's a mandate by the Department of Public Health that you do not grow vectors, or you do not have those sources on your properties that grow vectors. So, even if you don't know it, if you own property in San Francisco, you have some responsibility when it comes to mosquito IPM.


Luis Agurto:

00:06:52

So, in the movies and in real life, the next part of the IPM process is the inspection and survey, it’s easier done in the movies where they have a war room and they can display on the screen where all the extraterrestrials are located. For us, we had to have boots on the ground and go and, you know, visually inspect these areas. We knew that anywhere that would have water would be a likely place where mosquitoes would be breeding. So, we went and inspected reservoirs at the time, the land around the reservoirs. We looked at creeks, we looked at the water treatment plants, and the rest of the water treatment infrastructure that included catch basins.


Luis Agurto:

00:07:34

The next phase of the IPM process is to do identification. When you're talking about extraterrestrials, you can't really identify them. So, you have to study them, and you try to get your best minds to understand what those extraterrestrials want. Are they friendly? Are they hostile? What do they need to live? Where are they here for? Luckily for us, we have lots of specialists and biologists that know, what about these pests that we're trying to manage? So, we aren't really just thinking about mosquitoes. We're thinking about West Nile virus. So, we had to really pinpoint what are the mosquitoes that are likely to be vectoring West Nile. We know that birds are the reservoir hosts of West Nile virus. That means that they carry this virus inside of them and they're the ones that actually moved West Nile virus from the East Coast to the West Coast. We wanted to focus on mosquitoes that feed on birds and also feed on mammals, including people. And so, we were able to winnow that down to at least one species of mosquitoes. Very quickly. West Nile virus. It poses the highest risks to people over the age of 60, to children and then to people with certain medical conditions. So, one out of 150 people get permanent neurological damage from the virus. And it could even result in most people, four out of five people have no symptoms, however,


Luis Agurto:

00:09:00

having that understanding that we needed to find mosquitoes that bite birds and people, we were able to narrow down that, the target of our activities should be Culex mosquitoes. culex tarsalui is a mosquito that breeds mostly in natural water bodies. And culex pipiens, or the house mosquito, is an aggressive biting mosquito, very small that lives in urban areas and prefers polluted artificial containers of water. So, more than anything, this was our, real target. If you've ever had a mosquito at nighttime, kind of buzzing around your head, very pestfully and you know, in your ear, that's very likely the culex pipiens mosquito, a carrier of West Nile.


Luis Agurto:

00:09:55

So, the next phase of IPM is to do some monitoring. In the movies there's usually this wait and see approach. If the extraterrestrials haven't attacked yet, maybe they're friendly so we should see what's going to happen and we should record it as that's happening. Some data, in San Francisco, we worked with the Department of Public Health who to this day, responds to complaints of mosquitoes by setting out traps and trying to pinpoint the sources of those mosquitoes. At the time they did this survey in the reservoirs around these natural water bodies and, in city streets, we also did visual inspections of catch basins. These are assets that are maintained by the wastewater enterprise, a division of the Public Utility Commission. And, we were able to find that these were commonly infested with culex mosquitoes.


Luis Agurto:

00:10:48

The next step in IPM was always to develop your threshold. So, when it's, when you're talking about extraterrestrials, you might, take a wait and see approach until they crossed the line and that is destroying some, you know, national monument of some kind. And when that happens, they're so destructive. We can't tolerate a single one. So, we have to do everything we can to eliminate this threat in the real world. The cost of trying to eliminate all mosquitoes from the city and county would far outweigh the benefit of trying to do so. So, we narrow our focus down to trying to control the mosquitoes that are closely associated with people that are at high risk and we found those to be the ones in dense urban housing. Basically, most of San Francisco can house mosquitoes, culex mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and we know that they are in those catch basins in those areas. So, I think that's how we came up with the, the focus of catch basin treatments on an ongoing basis.


Luis Agurto:

00:11:52

Next, have to come up with a treatment plan. So, always in the movies, the idea is use the most powerful weapons that you have, dropping an "A" bomb on them and let's see what happens. Most of the time in the movies, it doesn't work. Two things happen. One is it does absolutely nothing. And so, we have to move to another strategy or we get stuck in an arms race with these extraterrestrials. Maybe we have a short-term win. And, we get some control, but they come back bigger and stronger and we have to use bigger guns. And in the process, we ended up destroying lots of our planet as we're doing so. So, you can imagine that (you're looking at me, Jeanette, like, you know what I'm talking about.} This happens in agricultural settings too. We try to control weeds by using the heavy guns, the herbicides and we get into an arms race with weeds. They adapt, create some resistance to the herbicides that we're using and so we have to either apply more herbicides or stronger herbicides to get the same control.


Luis Agurto:

00:12:54

In the real world we always want to start with prevention. So, we had to ask ourselves, is there a way to keep mosquitoes from breeding and catch basins, without having to treat them with a chemical all the time. And, the answer we came up with was "No." In San Francisco we have a combined sewer system. The sewer system puts storm water that would otherwise flood the streets, into the same sewer pipes that carry our raw sewage. So, the catch basins are designed to funnel that water into the system. They're also designed to catch and hold water, so they can keep gases from escaping the sewer system and they're designed to catch litter to prevent it from going into the system and clogging it. If we were to try to install screens to keep adult mosquitoes from entering the system, I'm sure it'd be a very costly enterprise to do so, and that screen would eventually get plugged up with debris, and it would defeat the purpose of the catch basin. It wouldn't let water enter the system. So, we instead came up with a treatment plan. The plan was to treat catch basins all, approximately 24,000 catch basins on a regular basis, maintain those catch basins a treatment so that when adult mosquitoes lay their eggs in those basins, those eggs do not develop into adult mosquitoes. we've used various iterations of a larvicides for this, and we use a combination of larvicides and pupacides so that we can kill late stage larva before they emerge as adults.


Luis Agurto:

00:14:30

In some cases, when we either have product failure or we have washed out of the basin where the larvicides are no longer active, we have mosquito production. Increasingly in the winter time when we're not doing any mosquito abatement, we see that there are mosquitoes are producing those catch basins and so we may be ordered to go and do a fogging with some of the products that are on the reduced risk pesticide list to knock down adult mosquitoes. We are ready in case of a public health emergency to have to treat with a residual insecticide on places where adult mosquitoes maybe landing if the need were to ever arise. So, we know that adult mosquitoes lay their eggs and water sources after they do that, they go and spend their days landing on the sides of buildings protected by the wind in trees or bushes. Or, it could be at some point in the future, we need to escalate our actions that we will be treating those areas to treat those adult mosquitoes. But for now, that hasn't been the case.


Luis Agurto:

00:15:41

Yeah. So, this is fogging at a wastewater treatment plant. They have some in-house, things that they have to do, housekeeping, they call it where they're flushing these systems out, so they're not having to treat it. Every once in a while, something happens, and we do get an outbreak in mosquitoes. And so, we're treating with an adulticide blocker. In this case, we're using I think cedarcide, which is a cedar oil and basically, silica that were blowing into the system. Asentria, which is a botanical oil also works when you're mixing that with an oil, to create a fog and you can use that for knockdown.


Luis Agurto:

00:16:23

It's only a number of times that we've had to do any fogging with that smaller group. So, good IPM really requires good record keeping and analysis. That's part of the continual improvement. We don't know what's working or if it's working, if we're not keeping that data and then looking back and analyzing it. So, in the scenario of the, extraterrestrial invasion, they did a treatment, it didn't work. Now it goes back to the scientists to say, Hey, I have the data, I saw that it didn't work, and I know why it didn't work. And, it's because they have some defense or something else and they actually have the evidence and the proof to say this is a better strategy. Once they have that evidence and proof and they communicate it back to the IPM team, they're able to get the resources they need to implement that strategy.


Luis Agurto:

00:17:11

For us, this is an ongoing conversation on record keeping. One of the, I think, the greatest ideas that someone came up with from the Department of Public Health. Well, I know who it was, Helen Zeverena at DPH asked us when we were doing our mosquito abatement treatments to, keep track of our catch basins that we treated by applying a little spot of paint on the curb. This is a very elegant, low tech way for us to signal to ourselves that we treated that basin. We are on the blue round. Anytime there's a blue dot missing, we haven't been to it yet and it's a way to signal to the team that that was treated. The Department of Public Health is tasked with the responsibility of responding to reports from the public. And so, one of the things that they do is they check to see if catch basins when they're doing their surveys had been treated and if that treatment is working. That's just one portion of the record keeping. We've gone through so many more and that's what I'm going to spend the rest of the time talking to you about.


Luis Agurto:

00:18:07

And in the movies they are usually done. So, they implement the strategy that was identified by the scientists, the people that are keeping careful observations of these things and they pat themselves on the back until next time. Because Hollywood knows that if you're willing to watch the movie, you are very likely to watch the sequel. We know, however, that with the same conditions, you can always expect to have the same pest problems. So, we have to continually improve what we're doing so we can do a better job next time. So, now I want to talk about the data keeping and record keeping system that we've been using and the evolution of this process. There's two parts of it. One is the evolution that we've had working with our partners at DPW, hydraulics, engineers and then there's some outside evolution that's happening in the city and in the government in general.


Luis Agurto:

00:19:01

So, from the very beginning we were working with the hydraulics engineers. And when we were tasked with treating 24,000 catch basins because of a public health emergency, we really had no idea how to start. So, we went to them and asked if they had some maps that they could share with us of the systems, so we could start keeping track of it that way. The collaboration and they will tell us that it's their job to support operations and maintenance activities of the sewer system. But we really did have a shared interest which was, you know, improving the base map of that infrastructure. So, the idea was if they share the map with us and we're doing this survey in the field, we could be proofing the maps that they have and hopefully give them edits to improve their data infrastructure.


Luis Agurto:

00:19:51

So, we did our field surveys and we crossed out and "X"-ed out where catch basins weren't located. We drew little circles where they were located. We gave those maps back to DPW, they scanned it and then they've harvested that information from those maps, and I think we did make a big impact at the time. However, every iteration of this we'd continue doing it and we would start giving them data that was less than perfect. So, in the end we started giving them maybe more of a headache than what it was worth. So, we continue trying to improve the process. The next favorite phase of that for us was to adopt GPS enabled phones. We use the GPS phones to input our findings when we went to catch basins, DPW created a backdoor to our database where they were pulling that information regularly and I think that we were able to give them some additional edits from that process.


Luis Agurto:

00:20:46

But again, the GPS wasn't very good technology at the time. So, it was far off and it, it only worked to a point. So, the next iteration of this was to print maps that had serial numbers so we could keep track specifically each catch basin that we were servicing so we could look at the conditions that were in those catch basins, track the pesticides that we were using and monitor for mosquitoes at the same time. You can imagine what it would be like to do data entry 100 or 200 times a day, six-digit numbers. And, I think that was an incremental improvement. They did. They were able to harvest some of that data at the time but ultimately it wasn't perfect. And, so we had to, we had to further improve, at this point we pretty much had exhausted our in-house capabilities, so we brought on a consultant and contractor to work with us.


Luis Agurto:

00:21:39

And what he did was he, he did the same process basically, which is to collaborate with us to learn how a DPW does its own verification process. He saw that they use a Google Street View to proof things in the field, so they can sit at their computer and use Google street view to see where catch basins are or other infrastructure. And so, he adopted that practice by taking our maps that we had collected over several years, scanning them, built a custom tool so that they could view our scanned map and find in Google street view where the catch basins were and provide a link to that verified catch basin. So, in the end, we were able to give DPW a stack of data that had a verifiable link that they could go and independently look in Google street view. At the end of this process DPW mapped out these catch basins, this is what it looks like, all the edits and additions and moves that they made. And these are the stats, by the end of it, they added about a thousand catch basins that weren't in their system. They removed about 500 that they thought were in their system that weren't there. They moved or modified some other drains based on our findings. So, this representative brought about an eight percent change to their overall database of catch basins in San Francisco.


Luis Agurto:

00:23:09

At the same time, there was some evolution that was happening outside of this IPM team. There is this movement in the country to open data to build better tools to analyze that data. And this is data that governments are collecting in the services that they provide so that we can optimize those services. In San Francisco, the mayor's office opened an office of open data, precisely for that goal, which is to build better tools to research and analyze what we're doing so we can optimize what we're doing. The DPW hydraulics engineers worked with SF open data, the Department of Technology and the nonprofit group Code for San Francisco to create this utility, this program called Adopt-A-Drain. Are any of you familiar with the Adopt-A-Drain program that PUC has? So, the idea is if you're a local resident, you can adopt a drain in your neighborhood, you can monitor that drain and you can keep it free of leaf litter and clutter.


Luis Agurto:

00:24:19

So, when the rains come, it doesn't get plugged up and you don't have flooding in your area. So, the idea is this is a social engagement with the community and giving and giving people a chance to work with city agencies directly. The big benefit to this is that they created a database of catch basins that they made open to the public and they gave that access to that database to Pestec as well. So, now what we have is a continuous integration cycle with DPW as we are doing our services for mosquito abatement, we're doing condition assessments of those catch basins. We are making edits to those data maps, we provide that information back to DPW who then verifies it, brings it into their system, and they have many sources of this happening throughout the city. Other contractors that are installing new catch basins or closing catch basins and removing them. And, then we pull into our system those fresh data maps. So, I don't know if this is, as, you know, emotionally appealing to use as it is, to me. This was a big deal. It took us a long time to be able to make these changes and now we have this change happening all the time in almost a seamless way.


Luis Agurto:

00:25:39

So what, is the question? We know that this isn't the end of it. Things are going to continue to change. We see it happening already with climate change. If the mosquito season is a really year round right now, our cycles are still a spring and fall cycle for treatment. It really needs to be carried out into the winter as well because that's where we do see activity. We know that with increasing temperatures, we have a new mosquitoes coming into California. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is a mosquito from the south, a tropical species that carries new diseases like Dang gay and Chicken Guna and Zika. We've had one occurrence of those mosquitoes in San Mateo County. And recently we had one in San Joaquin, correct me if I'm wrong, but, I'm, I'm pretty sure that that just happened. So, we do expect these mosquitoes on the rise and maybe not now, but sometime in the future when that does happen, those mosquitoes, don't need as much water as the culex pipiens mosquito. They really need a thimble full of water, so they can get that from divots in the pavement. They can get that from the bottom of a potted plant tray or they can even get it from the water that accumulates in the crown of a plant. So, doing surveillance for those mosquitoes is going to be a whole new world when that does happen.


Luis Agurto:

00:27:05

And we know with global warming that we can expect a constrained resources. There's going to be many impacts in many different ways and we expect for pest management to become, well we hope that, we prioritize pest management always and we dedicate the resources we need to it that are necessary.


Speaker 2:

00:27:27

So, after the end of all this and working with and growing our team to expand our own capabilities, we built a custom app, for utilizing the database that we now have access to. So, when we built this, we knew that we needed something that was going to be easy to use and easier than the systems that we were already using that were off the shelf. Some other systems that we use are PestPac or [inaudible] for doing field surveying. The APP that we built was really specific to mosquitoes and was specific to the surveys that we wanted to use. It was custom built for our needs. It allowed us to be more efficient when we're doing the inspections. We're no longer having to enter serial numbers, so we're able to actually gather more condition data for the operations and maintenance people at PUC.


Luis Agurto:

00:28:20

And this is one screen of what it looks like. We went from paper maps to a digital map that we have on our smartphone when we are doing our services in the city. This is what a catch basin it looks like. We're able to push a button on that catch basin which launches a survey and the survey tells us the name of the catch basin or the ID number. We record pest monitoring information. If we see larva there and they are adults. We report the treatments that we're doing. And then we also do some condition information for other maintenance and operation people. We try to identify what are the level of contents in the basin, what are the contents inside the basin and our hope is that we can close the loop on this with PUC, so we can help prioritize maintenance of the basins that really need it. That drives mosquito abatement at the same time. We know that leaf litter is a great way to shield water from the larvicides that we're using in the catch basin. So, if we're able to prioritize basins that have lots of leaf litter that might otherwise clog and keep storm water from entering the system and flooding neighborhoods we can also do a better job treating them for mosquitoes.


Luis Agurto:

00:29:42

So, next steps are, how do we harness this data? In one sense, we know that if we really integrate this into our decision-making process, we can do a better job of preventing more mosquitoes and rats as well. One of the issues that I know that DPH struggles with is they get reports for mosquitoes. They know that we're treating catch basins and they can't identify the sources of those mosquito problems. It could be that they are the catch basins that we're treating, so it could be, you know, an efficacy problem with the materials we're using, but it could also be some other unidentified sources. So, our hope is that pulling information from DPH, we'll be able to start narrowing down other unidentified sources. Earlier this year, DPH gave us a list of chronic locations that have chronic mosquito problems and we overlaid that information with areas that we know that there are inactive sewer pipes.


Luis Agurto:

00:30:44

So, San Francisco has been doing a sewer, a pretty massive sewer replacement project for several years. When they replace sewer pipe in San Francisco, they leave the old sewer pipe in place. And what they do is they plug up the ends of the pipe, they remove the man hole. Sometimes they grout the pipe completely when it's now abandoned, or they leave it there in case they're going to use it in the future and just cover the top. So, if everything goes right, those pipes should not get water inside them, but if something doesn't happen as it's supposed to, it could be that those pipes collect water and it could be a source of unidentified mosquito problems. So, we did do some surveying this year. We didn't find any of those inactive pipes having water in them, but we did find at least three sources of flooded sewer systems that did have mosquitoes. So, we do know that by using and connecting with DPH's complaint data or citizen reports of mosquitoes, we were able to target areas and find new areas that we had not been treating previously.


Luis Agurto:

00:31:52

So, I would like to open the conversation up to everyone to think about how we can connect these different sources of data together to do a better job of identifying sources. But, just some things that come to my mind, are, you know, the monitoring that many people see when they're doing their activities. So, we've done some work with Rec and Park and City Parks for rats. We know that Rec and Park doesn't grow rat problems because they don't have a lot of trash on their properties. What they have is real estate and they have real estate in dense urban areas where there's not a lot of real estate. So, rats like to move there and they go next door to a poorly maintained trash dumpsters to feast. So, and we know that recology, the people that are servicing those dumpsters, they see those rats and they have the same issues when they are picking up dumpsters and they dump them into their trucks that they end up bringing rats to pier 96 and move those problems around. If there was a way for recology to be into this team and to be able to report those issues directly to DPH.


Luis Agurto:

00:32:57

DPH would have another source of information to be able to deal with those sources. I know that Matt, you have the same issue and you know what I'm talking about. So, if there was a way to work and send that information to DPH, through that collaborative process, we should be able to be more efficient in reducing, these sources of pest problems. Another question I have is, can we use a pest monitoring data as an indicator of malfunctioning systems? A very simple way to understand that, and I know this to be the case, is when we have no way rap burrows, especially in tree wells or around structures--most of those, most of the time, those Norway rats are directly associated with the sewer system. They are coming from the sewer system through broken lateral pipes that go from buildings to the sewers.


Luis Agurto:

00:33:46

And then they're burrowing directly in those trees near those lateral pipes. So, we can treat as pest control operators, those burrows, no problem, but if we really want to deal with the source, we really have to reach those property owners and get them to fix that broken lateral pipe. Questions that I have that I don't have the answer for: are American cockroaches and indication of improper handling of grease in restaurants. I have the suspicion that when you open up a manhole, and you see lots of American cockroaches, it's probably has to do with grease that's in the system. That grease is feeding cockroaches and at the same time it creates clogs in the sewer pipes. So, perhaps American cockroaches can be an early indication of a coming crisis with a clog sewer pipe.


Luis Agurto:

00:34:34

Same thing goes with mosquitoes. We do have a vector control program in sewers for rats where we do find sometimes mosquito activity. We're not sure where that mosquito activity is coming from. There shouldn't be standing water in a sewer pipe. It should always be flowing. But could there be a leak in a sewer pipe where water is then penetrating underground, creating a source for mosquitoes to breed in and we know if there are leaks in sewer pipes, that's the condition for creating sinkholes that can cause extensive damage, very costly damage. So, are mosquitoes in sewer pipes and indication of a malfunctioning sewer system? That's a question that we want to answer and we're only going to be able to do that when we have a better record keeping and we do that analysis over time. A common question that we have, and we had this conversation, Krista, right? Are you seeing more rats this year than last?


Luis Agurto:

00:35:29

It would be great if we could actually pull that information together and we could have that conversation in a real way. It's hard for me to say if I see more rats. Usually when I'm looking at rat situations, it's very, you know, it has to do with that specific environment. There's a filthy dumpster. Yes. I'm seeing more rats because they're not cleaning up that area. But overall in the city, it's hard for me to really make that, that claim. If we had one place where we can pull our information together, we might be able to see these trends and we might be able to do more rodent control to get ahead of those problems before they become a bigger issue. The other big thing that I would like to start using this record keeping for, and that's really important to me, is to answer the question, does construction activities or development move pests around? When someone is building a new house or they're replacing that sewer pipe?


Luis Agurto:

00:36:26

Does that flush rat to new locations? My feeling is anecdotally is yes, I think that you have populations of rats and sewer pipes or you have populations of rats in abandoned buildings and when you don't control those rats, you end up moving them to new locations. What I want to do is start keeping better records of this to be able to do that analysis, to have that evidence and take it to our stakeholder group and say, if you're going to break ground, you're responsible for the rats that you're impacting. You should be doing abatement ahead of time, monitoring as you're doing it, and showing us that you didn't move rats before they become someone else's problem.


Luis Agurto:

00:37:06

So, there are some platforms already established for this. These are a repository of data. So, 311 is a great place to report malfunctioning systems to ask for service, to report rats in some situations. It could be easier to use. In an ideal world, it would integrate with what we're already doing. So, if I have my new APP that I can report that there is a missing grate on a catch basin, it would be ideal if that APP would directly interface with 311, so that 311 can dispatch that to the people that need to know. So, that's the hope that, we can work together to start creating like a data potluck where we can share the data that's relevant to us in terms of asset conditions that create pest problems. And I think if we can do that by growing this team and working with new groups of people, we can have a win-win in San Francisco for a vector control. So, with that, we can open it up. I do have my consultant and a partner in building this technology, Sergei, that can answer some questions about the technology. And then in terms of actual pesticides or frequency of services, I'm able to answer those questions and if there are just things you want to talk about and problems that you have, I think this is a good time for us to have those conversations as well. Thank you. [Audience applause]


Chris Geiger:

00:38:43

So, I really love the idea of having a shared database that could be a tool for all the IPM coordinators who are involved in any kind of public health, activities. That would be such a wonderful tool and I mean, I have a few questions that are probably detailed questions for later. I am curious though, who, where all the data lives. I mean we have the central database that came from DPW now, but what about the, like what you're collecting on your APP and so forth.


Luis Agurto:

00:39:12

Yeah, so we have, we have our own database, online and DPW has a direct connection with it. So, it's a, it's like a mirrored system. They're able to pull everything that we put into it directly and it lives with the Department of Hydraulic Engineering at Public Works


Chris Geiger:

00:39:29

So all of that data that you're collecting is also mirrored over there.


Luis Agurto:

00:39:32

Correct.


Chris Geiger:

00:39:32

Oh, that's great.


Luis Agurto:

00:39:33

And then they are the source of data for the PUC. So, everything that we collect goes to DPW or to public works and then they provide that information directly to PUC.


Chris Geiger:

00:39:43

Great. Okay. Thank you.


Luis Agurto:

00:39:46

But it is my hope to directly connect with DPH the same information. So, as we're seeing, activities in the basins, I want to somehow be able to interact, integrate directly with a DPH so you can see it. And it could just be access to our system with a username and login or could be some direct link so that you get it into your whatever systems that you have.


Chris Geiger:

00:40:10

Questions. Yeah.


Question:

00:40:15

I have a comment about West Nile virus. There are several key [inaudible] sources. One of them is [inaudible] and the other one is cemeteries.


Luis Agurto:

00:40:31

Was that in San Mateo or where was it that you were working on this again, Al? Oh, statewide. So, in cemeteries because it's a landscaped area with lots of opportunities to collect that water, right? I know, at least pier 96 we do work with them and they try not to use water as much as they can. But you're right, anytime that you have water standing, it's a good source for mosquitoes and for rats. So that's something that we've got to be on the watch out for.


Chris Geiger:

00:41:05

Sorry, I didn't quite get some of what Al was saying? You might want to repeat the question.


Luis Agurto:

00:41:18

So it was more like a comment though, right? It was, Al was saying that when he was working for the state, West Nile---what was to agency you were working with? The California Department of Public Health. That big sources of mosquitoes were dumped in cemeteries.


Chris Geiger:

00:41:44

So the APP right now is a Pestec property?


Luis Agurto:

00:41:49

Right.


Chris Geiger:

00:41:52

So there'll be questions about how that can be used by city workers.


Luis Agurto:

00:00:00

Right.


Chris Geiger:

00:42:01

Is that likely, have you talked about that? Have you thought more about how that could work?


Luis Agurto:

00:42:07

Well, for sure, because it was a cost to develop it. I think it would be, it can be a very low-cost licensing to use the APP. This is one part of a better record keeping systems that we should be aware of and I want you to know. Right now, we're treating catch basins for Wastewater Enterprise. We've been treating catch basins that were on those maps and when we were using paper maps and we had no idea of knowing really who owned those assets. If it was a catch basin, we were treating it. In the future, now that we have access to that information, it could be that agencies no longer are going to want us to treat the assets that belong to other agencies. So, that's something to prepare for. The good news is we have this easy to use tool that has these things mapped and it would be something that you could adopt.


Luis Agurto:

00:42:59

The APP is super friendly in the sense that it's a progressive web application, so it's not something that you have to download from the Apple store or the Android store. It's something that you can just use online. It embed some software onto any cell phone and it works universally with any mobile, cell phone, smartphone. So, it is available for use for whoever wants it and we can customize it for your purposes too. So, if the Department of Public Health, is doing inspections and needs some kind of information system that's different from what they're already using a then there would be a way to customize it for your purposes.


Luis Agurto:

00:43:41

Okay. So, the question is, is there any progress in monitoring adult mosquito populations and we right now have a program with the water treatment plants where we are doing mosquito trapping for them. But we aren't doing a West Nile virus, West Nile virus surveillance. So, I guess the question goes to the DPH.


Comment:

00:44:24

Yeah, so if we have a sample that is positive for West Nile virus we will send it off to the State for--to determine whether or not the mosquitoes are carrying West Nile. If they are, well, we'd have to look into--oh no, I'm sorry we'd have to ask Phil if we could do the neighborhood fogging.


Comment:

00:44:49

I'm asking you because we have been sending, these adult mosquitoes, up to the State, but I don't really have a plan in place with what we would do, if we got one.


Question:

00:45:03

If we go that route we would most likely request service from San Mateo County, who has a lot of experience--I'm when you have found a few thousand positive mosquitoes area who have West Nile, I'm what are you going to do, other than that.


Luis Agurto:

00:45:20

How many times have West Nile virus positive bird's been found in San Francisco? And how many times have human, acquired infections been confirmed?


Comment:

00:45:31

Well, human acquired infections are confirmed but what is not confirmed is whether or not they acquired it locally. I think the last human case and I think there were some cases before that or was associated with [inaudible]. As far as the birds are concerned, we had a positive bird last year, in the Terrace Heights area and we went to the mosquitoes responsible for that and there was never a positive mosquito. Prior to that the last positive dead bird may have been in 2012.


Luis Agurto:

00:46:23

So, it could be that that bird acquired it outside of San Francisco. Very likely.


Comment:

00:46:29

Yes.


Luis Agurto:

00:46:29

It makes sense. So, you were asking me before the meeting, Matt, what materials we're using to treat catch basins.


Comment:

00:46:40

I wanted to know, what you're using. You know we're running low on DPI right now, it’s time for us to reorder something else. So, I just wanted your input on that.


Luis Agurto:

00:46:55

Yeah. So, we, so we've used different products over the years based on the frequency of service that we are providing. When we had more frequent service, in the catch basins, we were using microbial larvicides and we started out with VTI. Uh, we were concerned about the same resistance problem. So, we moved to a Vector Max, which is a combination of VTI [inaudible] and it's supposed to give you up to six weeks control. We think it's more like a three or four weeks that it lasts inside the system. Right now, we're using Alto Seed, XR ingots. These are a, basically it's a plaster of Paris ingot that's treated with an insect growth regulator. The label says it can last up to 150 days. We found it to be less than that. Our distributors are telling us, you shouldn't count more than three months. Uh, I think there are questions if it even last the three months that we are counting on right now. So, the next phase of evaluation for us is really going to be testing the efficacy of that product in these catch basins.


Question:

00:48:15

And how do you determine that? Do they test it in an environment similar to what catch basins do? Like the run-off and all those other factors?


Luis Agurto:

00:48:20

I just sent you a protocol for doing that this morning. But I think that the way you do it is, you open up the catch basin, you dip cup sample, you find immature stages of larva and you look for cast skins of pupa. So, if the pupa have emerged, and left their exoskeletons in the water, then it tells you it didn't prevent them from becoming adult mosquitoes. That's probably the best way. Yeah. And so that's going be a pretty intensive, I think, to do so we have to really develop a protocol and I'm going to count on your help to help me develop a statistically significant protocol to sample catch basins and test the efficacy of the product. And so, I think anytime that we go to a catch basin and we see a adult mosquitoes flying out of the basin, we should consider that a treatment failure and do additional treatment. We're also using a mineral oil called BBA oil. It's for pupacide. So, the AGR and microbials do not kill late stage larva and so you have to have something for those late stage larva, but to keep them from emerging as adults. And that's that mineral oil.


Chris Geiger:

00:49:49

Luis, does the current app allow you to record features other than the storm water catch basins? Are you able to add your own sort of pins or like, "here's a refuse can where we have chronic rats and things like that?


Luis Agurto:

00:50:07

So, we could do anything. Always, since we're contractors, we always have to follow a very specific line, which is a serving the client and the contract that we have. So, that might be going beyond what we can do with that APP. But we do have the capability of adding catch basins to it and we are looking for other features that a pose a health and safety risk. One of those things would be, basins that have grates installed parallel to the curb, that poses a risk for bikers were there tires can get wedged in the, in the catch basin grate. So, we are reporting those things. There are some other features like wash-ins which are cuts in the curb that allow water to get into the basin. In some cases, the contractors that were installing wash-in, you know, weren't installing the catch basin. And so, we're helping to identify those situations too for these operations and maintenance people. We are doing a treatment of a sewers and in those cases, we are collecting information of mosquito activity as well. And that's something that we really want to continue synchronizing with DPH.


Question:

00:51:19

Getting back to catch basins, do you [inaudible]?


Luis Agurto:

00:51:29

Yes. So, yeah, that is the condition assessment that we're doing. And that information is getting back to PUC and our hope is, and in a perfect world, we'd be able to prioritize conditions that are severe and even be able to generate a work order in their system for prioritizing those catch basins. So, that's the next step in working with the hydraulics engineers is doing that. And the big one that we're worried about is any raff that sits on top of the water. So, leaf litter is a really big problem because we're using an ingot and that needs to touch the water to really deliver the pesticide there and the leaf litter blocks it. Matt?


Question:

00:52:11

I'm curious what you use if you have pupa?


Luis Agurto:

00:52:16

if you have pupa? So, right now, everything that we're doing is looking inside the basin. So, if, we expect to see larval activity in the base and when we're using the Methapreen (the ingots). We are treating with pupacide anytime we see adult mosquitoes come from the basin. So, that's basically our trigger. Is if there's adult mosquitoes, we do an additional treatment. We were exploring how to equip bikes with cans of oil and that didn't really fly. The PPE requirements are so high that it would be a huge burden for them to ride around and treat with an oil pupacide. So, we have a truck that follows up behind them. The APP tells us any basin that they marked down as being active with adults and we have a team that follows weekly behind the catch basin team treating with that pupacide.


Question:

00:53:26

What efforts are being made to allow DPH to access those [inaudible] of information?


Luis Agurto:

00:53:26

I guess this is the starting point. So, we just, well, we launched this in July and so we've been using this probably since the first week of July. So, we don't even have a complete round through the city yet, but, it's yours. So, DPW has a direct link to us, to view these things. This is the city and county's data because this is the city and county's program. And so, I can give that to you today if you want for you to use it. And same thing goes for Rec and Park. Go ahead Matt.


Luis Agurto:

00:54:03

So right now, the contract is set up to do two cycles a year. So, we have a Spring cycle and a Fall cycle. And we start, we used to start February 15th, we're starting a little bit later now, having to do with the resources that we have and so we are basically doing two cycles a year. We did a speed up a little bit I think because of the APP. So, I hope to be able to negotiate something with PUC to at least go back and target basins that had water on this last round so we can maintain some of this larvicide there over the winter. So, that's my hope and I hope that, now armed with the evidence and the data and the maps that show it, that they'll go for it.


Question:

00:54:51

I don't know how you are looking forward to this, but sometimes when we go out to check catch basins and there is no water in the catch basin, but we disturb it we may see some adult activity. Are you guys addressing that in any way?


Luis Agurto:

00:55:12

That's a good one. And we, at one point we had armed our group with tent poles, so they could be probing the basin. That was very difficult for us to do. Right, now in the springtime we treat every single basin, so every basin that looks dry to us, does get a treatment at least once a year. On our second round we're only treating basins that have standing water in them. So, when we do drop in there and if we see, we disturb the water, you know, or we disturb it and we see things coming out, we go back, and we treat it with a pupacide. Otherwise we're testing it by basically kicking debris in from the street into the basin and trying to stir things up that way to see if there's something else going under underneath that litter.


Question:

00:55:58

And possibly under the catch basin itself? {inaudible]


Luis Agurto:

00:56:05

Yeah. I think that's the deeper part of this. So, I think that's where we're going to have to really be able to show where you have this evidence of chronic mosquito problems, where we're doing the catch basins, when we can demonstrate that we're actually treating the basins and not producing mosquitoes there, And we still have an issue with adult mosquitoes, that's where we're going to need this data to support additional work. We had done that for a pilot, catch basins are filthy places and our team are, you know, they're working on bikes. So, it's a matter of a heavier load that they're carrying. And then also the contamination that they have a from handling such filthy materials. So, that was really the issue for us. We piloted it and all the temples came back broken and I think, you know, no one wanted to use them as what it was.


Comment:

00:57:07

Going back to the combined sewer system diagram. I'm new to all of this, but I'm curious, is there a reason--it, is it bad for a basin to have water in it? Should it theoretically by default be dry?


Luis Agurto:

00:57:22

No. Yeah. So, so, I did mention that, but let me, let me review it.


Comment:

00:57:29

It's sewer paper and it's kind of like a trap.


Luis Agurto:

00:57:34

Exactly, that's exactly what it is. So, when it's functioning, it should have water in it. Now there are new systems that they're installing. These are the called MS-4s. It's the municipal separate storm water system. I can't remember what the four s's are but anyway, those directly drained to the bay or they drained to some other body of water, so they don't actually hold the water. But in some cases, we found that those do get clogged as well and we have found that they can be a source of mosquitoes. So, even though now we're not actively targeting those MS-4s, we may need to at some point because there is maintenance that has to happen on them as well. Roberto.


Question:

00:58:13

You said that when you do an inspection you use sticks and stones. Do you guys have like a snake with a camera you can lower and look.


Luis Agurto:

00:58:24

Into the catch basin itself?


Comment:

00:58:27

Yeah or in to a main, down the street, use a camera to just see what you can see inside.


Luis Agurto:

00:58:36

I can't up to this point. You know, I can't, but that's why we have this team. So, working with, the Public Works hydraulics, engineers, we've had these suspicions. They have records of many of the lines being inspected and they have photos of those lines and in some cases, they’ve been able to show us that there's cracks in different systems that were identified previously. So, the answer is yes but really, it's about the right folks doing that work,


Question:

00:59:05

You know, I'm just curious, how much reporting of places where, you know, you dropped an ingot in there where, you went back a month later, you know, because you got a reporting of adult mosquitoes coming out?


Question:

00:59:23

What percentage, would you say?


Luis Agurto:

00:59:26

Yeah, I can't answer the question. So, right now we're just, we have this system that we're using. We have our first round right now, we haven't had any rain since we've been using it, so I hope by next year we'll have a better idea of that.


Comment:

00:59:39

So, this will be the first Fall application that you do, using an ingot?


Luis Agurto:

00:59:43

And using this and using this record keeping system at the same time, where we can visualize these things and we can track that treatment. So, March through October 30th has been historically no water at that time. Right? Yeah and that was kind of the you know, the suggestion is why don't we just wait until all the water, the rain is gone, and you just don't know when it's going to rain and when it's not going to rain and you, you have to get started sooner than later. If we were to wait until April to start treating, we wouldn't get through the city until July and at that point we would have lot, I think a lot more mosquitoes in the places that we haven't been yet. So, I think there is an argument for starting sooner than later. You had a question, Matt?


Question:

01:00:37

So, just to clarify if the catch basin is dry does that mean it's not functioning properly?


Luis Agurto:

01:00:41

So, that's part of the difficulty in this. They can even look the same, the catch basins and you're looking down at it, but inside they may be different. So, a typical catch basin with a D shape, we'll have an inverted kind of bell inside of it. That's the trap. Those should have water in them and they're designed to hold water and to serve as a trap or a seal from sewer gases. There are other basins like you mentioned too that have direct inlets and outlets. So, they basically just pass the water through and then there are these MS-4 basins that drain directly to the bay or to other bodies of water.


Comment:

01:01:21

So, to clarify for everybody, a catch basin is anything that will retain, so the pipe could be an inch or two above, so you will have water ponds designed to collect the sediment in the bottom there, and keep, the pipe is actually the same height as the bottom of the basin and there are different varieties of that.


Luis Agurto:

01:01:51

So, not until now that we can actually see the, the name of the basin on the APP, see the ID number, can we identify it? Otherwise we're just looking down at it and they look from the surface to be virtually the same.


Question:

01:02:08

I'm kind of curious what other departments who do any public health treatment, having this kind geographic based tool would be helpful for you or if not, what would it take to be helpful?


Comment:

01:02:38

Most definitely super helpful.


Luis Agurto:

01:02:45

Right? And as you do it on a bigger scale, then it's going to be impossible to keep track of it, right? Just on paper.


Comment:

01:03:11

[inaudible]


Luis Agurto:

01:03:21

So, we use Pestpac also and so we're looking at a bridging to it. So, it does have a, it's called an API. What's API stand for? It's application programming interface. So, it's a bridge and so you're able to connect different systems together. A Pestpac doesn't have everything that we want, like recording photos of conditions that you're finding and or alerts to remind you that you have something open in an area that you have to go and address it. So, our hope right now is not to build a new PestPac, but it's to build the capabilities that Pestpac is missing and bridge to it, so we still have our work order system to pass back, but we have a better way to do a monitoring using a custom-built tool.


Speaker 4:

01:04:05

Maybe this is kind of a techy question Phil. With an API like that, would it theoretically be possible for it to continue to use Pestpac who records our data, but also have access to the map showing. . ..


Phil:

01:04:10

Well, that's the whole point we can't re-invent the world, so we need to use the things that you already have and just learn to use them better. [inaudible] So, there are opportunities of not only--basically there are professional tools, right? So, the trick here is too rigid--to have some intermediary in the center that will allow integration. Integration of our various tools and various efforts and if we are successful in that, then your capability greatly increases.


Chris Geiger:

01:05:30

So, it sounds like they may be the bridge to that central DPW database.


Phil:

01:05:45

We are trying to figure out how to bridge those two things. There are several factors that have been brought to light. Number one is [inaudible] and if you lack experience in this and very few people have experience in this, so you basically learn as you go. Like Luis and I we make a step and we have no [inaudible] so every day we adjust. [inaudible].


Luis Agurto:

01:07:39

And departments of technology and hydraulics engineering, they're trying to build systems that other departments can use too, including an ESRI database or the


Speaker 4:

01:07:50

department of Technology responsible for weeks at a variety of things and the resources you have who realize that whatever it is. So, this is something that you, you think, so why last you have. So even though you know several departments are working very hard to make these things available. [inaudible] So, even though those things happen, it takes a while and I think, something to do is we will have more conversations and so more communication and collaboration I think, with the resources that are available. So basically, more communication, more communication. without more information.


Luis Agurto:

01:09:41

So, we did invite a different group that was supposed to be here, right and there's a project that we have coming up with a nonprofit group called Dev mission. And so, their mission is to bring local residents, young adults into the tech industry. And the idea is to try to, through technology, build some custom tools that serve, the local area with local problems that we have. So, they were going to be here. This is going to be some, a group that's going to be working in our offices and learning about what we're doing so they can come up with some projects. So, if you have some issues that you think technology could be a solution for, that could be a resource for you and this would be something that, would not cost you anything to do. And I think that they'd be interested in developing it for you. So, keep that in mind and if you have something just let us know.


Comment:

01:10:47

[inaudible]


Luis Agurto:

01:12:38

I think we have to find out. I don't have the answer for it. I mean we've talked about it and you'd see it in construction sites. They use that for erosion control, right.


Comment:

01:12:55

But in the Spring and fall times [inaudible]


Luis Agurto:

01:13:04

So you're using them. I mean in what instance do you use it? Just to be helpful?


Comment:

01:13:11

There are drains that we have that engineers don't have to do a lot of clean-ups, but yeah, we do have, or had had larva, so we treat the environment and it still goes on.


Luis Agurto:

01:13:44

So, the question was-- can you, is there an application for screening or blanketing the catch basins to keep mosquitoes out but still let water in and you're describing an instance where you have a small number of basins that you can do that. So, I think that for property owners and that are doing that, that's totally viable. And the proof is in your experience with it, right?


Question:

01:14:11

In your experience in the drains that you have, is there a percentage?


Luis Agurto:

01:14:16

I can't answer the question. I don't know. It's 24,000 basins.


Comment:

01:14:24

[inaudible]


Luis Agurto:

01:14:35

Oh, I see. Well, if it's blanketed then we wouldn't check it. I mean that's. But yeah, it's a, it's a good question. I don't know what the cost outlay is for doing that. Yeah, right.


Comment:

01:14:55

[inaudible] last week where were doing surveillance, [inaudible] are covered by construction law, but there's one little corner that was open and that was thoroughly tested for something like that.


Luis Agurto:

01:15:23

So, would the cost outweigh the benefit? I mean that's the question you're going to ask, right? You'd still have to monitor it. And so, in which case the additional cost is it warranted versus just treating it? I'm not sure. And to do that on scale would be the question, right. Yeah. And I think on a smaller scale that that would work, but a citywide would be difficult. Yeah. Just targeted.


Comment:

01:15:51

[inaudible]


Comment:

00:00:00

[inaudible]


New Speaker:

01:16:52

Yeah, we're actually looking at ways of how can we dip cups sample without removing the grate because that's such a, there's a risk, you know, of injury, how? A Turkey baster, he's got a really long one. Right. And then there's some technique to dip cups sampling to and so I don't know, you'd have to do enough to really test to see if you're getting. Yeah, okay. IPM Innovation. Okay.


Comment:

01:17:25

I was just imagining an alternative dip cup and I was just kind of playing around with this, if you could put in some kind of light colored board that you can put into the catch basin or whatever to give some contrast. And then when the [inaudible] start to swim over it you can get an idea of whether or not they are pupa etc. [inaudible].


Luis Agurto:

01:17:54

I'd love to go on a field trip with you and see it in action really because that sounds like a good idea on checking larval activity and then it's hard to know the difference, right? If it's treated larva or not.


Comment:

01:18:06

Yeah, but otherwise in the catch basin we look for like candy wrappers or weeds or something like that can offer some contrast, so we can see.


Luis Agurto:

01:18:17

And a very strong flashlight, I'm sure.


Comment:

01:18:19

A flashlight, but we have these kind of clip boards that reflect the sun.


Luis Agurto:

01:18:21

Okay. Like a mirror.


Comment:

01:18:31

Otherwise, getting out there around 11, 12, 1:00 o'clock when the sun is overhead.


Luis Agurto:

01:18:40

Okay. Good tips. Thank you.


New Speaker:

01:18:43

[Applause] END