Bachmans Valley residents complain about fly infestation

June 29, 1994|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,Sun Staff Writer

Carl Dwyer, a 39-year-old Bachmans Valley resident, is a neighborly fellow. But that isn't why he issued an invitation yesterday to have Carroll County health officials join him for a barbecue.

Mr. Dwyer said he built a barbecue grill to have outdoor cookouts at his home on the 700 block of Bachmans Valley Road, just down the road from the County Fair Farms. But a fly infestation, which many residents blame on the chicken farm there, has taken over the neighborhood.

In Mr. Dwyer's words, "not a human alive" would cook outdoors.

"I'd like to invite any county commissioner or health department official over to my home for an outdoor barbecue," Mr. Dwyer said yesterday. "But they wouldn't be able to take it."

Mr. Dwyer was one of nearly 70 angry county residents who expressed similar feelings during a meeting last night at the Westminster Riding Club.

Neighbors of the County Fair Farms called the meeting to determine the number of residents affected.

"I've never in my life protested anything or caused any trouble in my community," said James Finley, a homeowner near the farm who led last night's meeting. "But this is affecting my family . . . and I have to stand up."

Residents who live as far as three miles from the farm joined Mr. Finley, rising to recount a swarm of horrors they blame on the flies: dying pets, discolored walls, even family members taken to the hospital for fly bites.

Last night, they decided to form a committee to push county officials for a solution to the problem.

John and Patsy Dahlberg, who came with their two young sons, said flies had taken over their garage in the 1700 block of Solomon Lane, a little more than a mile from County Fair Farms.

The proof, they said, is in the four strips of fly paper they put up in the garage 10 days ago, which are now completely covered.

"Obviously, the solution is to wrap the entire chicken house at the farm in fly paper," Mr. Dahlberg said.

Residents also charged that officials in the county health department have misled them for months about the extent of the problem.

Several people claimed the fly infestation is the result of the county's failure to ensure the proper disposal of chicken manure by the farm.

But in an interview yesterday, Richard B. Isaac, the county's director of environmental health, said the health department has been working with the farm to fix any problems. And he denied that the department had been unresponsive to residents.

"The health department will not get into a mudslinging match with the residents," Mr. Isaac said.

Officials at County Fair Farms, and the nearby Mullinix egg farm, which is also cited by neighbors as a source of the flies, did not return phone calls yesterday. Residents said farm owners have blamed the abundance of flies on the hot, wet weather and the fact the land is used for agriculture.

But a state health official maintained yesterday that the weather may be the only cause of the infestation.

Dr. William F. Gimpel, a Maryland Department of Agriculture official who visited County Fair Farms on Friday, praised the farm's anti-fly efforts.

"Right now, we're looking at a steadily decreasing fly population," Dr. Gimpel said. "With any luck, within a few weeks the residents shouldn't have a fly problem."

Residents at last night's meeting, however, said they have seen fly eggs and are bracing for more flies by the end of the summer.

"The problem is that it's not even August yet," said Mr. Dahlberg. "This is only June."

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