By Brenda Flanagan
Lurking behind an abandoned house on Varady Drive are collapsing in-ground pools filled with watery sludge and trash. Over on Francis Avenue, a privacy fence hides a dilapidated aboveground pool at another abandoned house. Greg Aquila cleans and demolishes these pools for Woodbridge Township.
“You feel bad for the people that have to walk away from these homes, that can’t afford them, but you know this is just a big health hazard,” Aquila said. “Horrible. It’s just green, as I said, looks like pea soup.”
He said he can see the mosquito larvae.
“We had a neighbor that left a pool like that and it gets disgusting and you get mosquitoes and it’s nasty! There is a health issue, I think,” said Gerry Stamato.
That’s why neighbors like Stamato applaud Woodbridge officials for actively seeking out and cleaning up abandoned or neglected swimming pools, almost three dozen of them last year.
“We contacted 20 homeowners who agreed to to take down their own pools because they weren’t active and they weren’t maintaining them, and we also aggressively identified 18 pools that we took down,” said Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac.
“Everybody knows that mosquitoes breed very fast and we really want to reduce the population of mosquitoes. The most effective way is to get rid of the breeding, this is a great way to do it. We were very proactive last year, we going to continue to be very proactive this year,” said Director of Woodbridge Department of Health and Human Services Dennis Green.
The mayor says Woodbridge places a lien on abandoned houses to cover the cost of removing these pools and get reimbursed when the property sells. A neighbor tipped off town inspectors about this one on Francis. For built-in pools that are in good condition, the town will treat the water and cover them over.
“The Mosquito Commission will actually put fish in there and the fish will eat the mosquito larvae which will control the population very well,” said Green.
New Jersey’s Department of Health says it’s logged 245 reported Zika cases, five of those this year, all of them travel-related. But Aedes mosquitoes that spread Zika are aggressive biters, and officials urge New Jersey residents to patrol their yards for standing water and check birdbaths, tires, buckets and cans. Woodbridge has two more pools scheduled for demolition this week and urged residents to report any similar health hazards — no names required.