8 On Your Side: Polk lake invaded by mosquitoes finally getting attention

MULBERRY, Fla. (WFLA) – An overgrown lake in Mulberry that has turned into a massive mosquito pit is finally getting some attention. It’s an issue that 8 On Your Side looked into on Tuesday. As of Thursday morning the city had a private contractor beginning the process of removing the overgrowth.

Wade Pharis, Vice President of Applied Aquatic, had crews removing weeds from a channel with machetes. He said they planned to come back on Tuesday with a boat and start spraying and killing the weeds. “We will spray about 30-40% on Tuesday,” he said. “We will come back a few more times to keep applying the aquatic safe herbicide. That way we can minimize any sort of fish kill.”

Around 1,000 people live within a 1/2 mile of Lake Jonathon. Neighbors say for ten years the foliage has been neglected, and has overgrown to look more like a field. As a result, canals that would normally allow water to flow in, have been blocked. The stagnant water has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

“We can’t even go outside at night. Unless you have on long sleeves and pants, and you still get bit,” said Charles Mossholder, who lives along the 600 block of NW 5th Avenue.

Mossholder tells News Channel 8 the problem has gotten really bad in the past five years. He claims he’s asked the city to do something about it, but it has only gotten worse.

“They weren’t keeping up with the vegetation properly, so the water can’t flow in properly,” said Mulberry City Manager Rick Johnson. He said they’ve had their hands tied trying to get answers too. The property is privately owned, and he recently found out the trust holder had died. “Now that we know that we can do something.”

Johnson estimates that code enforcement has sent the property owner citations now totaling around $115,000. He said because the lake is a health issue, a city attorney approved for them to go ahead and start fixing the problem. As of now, the money will come from a storm water fund, paid in taxes from residents. The money is typically used to maintain public waterways, but would be used in this case, because of the health and safety issue.  Johnson said the city will later try to recoup taxpayer money for the project through liens on the property.

Johnson is also waiting for the state funds to fight mosquitoes which could help.

“We’ve applied for $150,000. So a portion of that would be used to help,” he said.

“I used to be able to fish in there. I would catch a nice dinner. Not now,” said Mossholder. When 8 on Your Side told him about the work being done Thursday, he was ecstatic. “I can’t wait to go fishing again,” he said. “I just got my one boat working, and now I’ll have to get the other one going. And with the water flowing, the mosquitoes will flow with it.”WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON RIGHT NOW: