WATERVILLE — City residents over the weekend began receiving notices in the mail asking them to complete an online survey about their experiences with browntail moths on their properties.

Officials are seeking the public’s assistance in pinpointing where browntail moth nests are located so the city can create an inventory of problem locations.

The short survey on the city’s website — www.waterville-me.gov — is being conducted with help from Bartlett Tree Experts of Scarborough.

The results are expected to help the city determine if nests found on private property should be destroyed and if property owners want the city’s help, according to City Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, who launched the browntail mitigation effort last year.

The information residents provide will be kept confidential, according to officials.

At a City Council meeting last Tuesday, Klepach urged residents to complete the survey.

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The notice residents received in the mail includes that browntail moths can cause severe rashes and respiratory issues. They can also damage or kill trees.

“Help us slow the spread,” the notice reads.

The survey asks residents about the types of trees on their property, whether they own or rent the property, if they have seen browntail moths on their property and whether they want the city’s help in mitigating problems with the invasive species.

Klepach, a faculty member in the biology department at Colby College in Waterville, urged city officials last June to address the problem. The following month, the City Council voted unanimously to allocate $100,000 to the effort.

Microscopic, poisonous hairs shed by browntail moth caterpillars in spring and summer cause rashes similar to those caused by poison ivy. If inhaled, the airborne hairs can cause respiratory issues in those with sensitivities.

Browntail moths typically infest oak, pear and apple trees, but also eat birch, maple and other hardwoods and shrubs, when the moths’ preferred sources have been defoliated, according to Klepach.

The city last fall received approval from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention to declare the browntail moth a public nuisance, which allows the city to spend public money on public and private property, with permission from private landowners, and advocate for state-level action and resources for municipalities.

On June 4, 2021, the Waterville City Council declared a public emergency and the need to preserve the public health and safety of residents from browntail moth caterpillars.

Councilors authorized City Manager Steve Daly to spend up to $5,000 to spread awareness of the issue through signs at city parks, flyers, city websites and other means.

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