Tall Problem: Grassy lots mean mosquitoes

Last week’s rain, thunderstorms, and the landfall of Hurricane Hanna mean extra work for property owners as grass drinks up all the water. Property owners in Brownsville are responsible for keeping their grass short under city ordinance. What happens if grass is too tall, or if the property is vacant or abandoned?

According to the City of Brownsville, tall grass violations are handled by the health department’s ordinance enforcement officers. Grass is considered too tall in Brownsville once it has grown higher than 18 inches, as it becomes a public health risk due to the potential to attract mosquitoes.

The process to trim grass that has grown too high and is in violation of the ordinance can take up to two weeks. It involves an ordinance enforcement officer attempting to make contact with the owner, first through certified mail.

This can take up to seven days. If the officer is unable to reach the property owner, the property will be automatically submitted for mowing with a contracted company. The city’s website specifies that this process will take up to another seven days.

In the case that grass on a property has reached four feet tall, the officer can request an emergency mowing, which will also be a seven-day process.

It’s important to monitor the health of yards following precipitation, especially in summer months as heat and humidity skyrockets locally. Adult mosquitoes can hide in the brush. Keeping lawns short is integral to preventing the pests from nesting around town.

Mosquito-borne diseases spread by the bite of an affected mosquito, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention writes in its preventative guidance. “Although people may not become sick after a bite from an infected mosquito, some people have a milk, short-term illness or (rarely) severe or long-term illness. Severe cases of mosquito-borne diseases can cause death,” wrote the agency.

According to Brownsville Public Health, mosquito populations place the public at risk of diseases like malaria, west nile virus, dengue, and chikungunya virus. There have been no cases in recent years, but public health officials are always working to prevent the spread of such infections.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so it’s also important to clear bird baths, tires, gutters, and any other culvert or ditch where water can collect after rainfall.

“Homeowners can reduce the number of areas where adult mosquitoes can find shelter by cutting down weeds adjacent to the house foundation and in their yards, and mowing the lawn regularly,” recommends the American Mosquito Control Association on its website.

The City of Brownsville asks residents to report any violation of the tall grass ordinance to the City of Brownsville Public Health Department at ( 956)542-3437.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com