By CBS Baltimore Staff

ESSEX, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore County is establishing a permanent aerial spraying program to keep Back River’s midge population at bay, County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced Monday.

The program—a joint effort by the county and Maryland Department of Agriculture—targets what Olszewski described as a “relentless and fast-growing nuisance” that has been a source of frustration for years in Essex and Dundalk.

READ MORE: Teen, Man Injured In East Baltimore Shooting

“Our local midge population has exceeded nuisance levels for years,” Olszewski said in part. “But midges have been swarming neighborhoods around Back River for years, threatening backyard barbecues, waterfront brunches and boating trips.”

While the county executive noted that midges do not bite and are not dangerous, their swarms have a negative impact on quality of life for residents and present an economic threat to local tourism and businesses.

“When people go out to the beach or want to hop on their boat, to get swarmed by bugs can be bad for business and it’s bad for the residents who live here,” Olszewski said.

The program is based on the success of last year’s pilot program, which used a helicopter to treat a stretch of the river with a specialized insecticide.

The insecticide’s key ingredient is bacillus thuringiensis irsraelensis (BTI), a naturally occuring bacteria that harms fly and mosquito larvae but is not toxic to people, fish, mammals and birds, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

READ MORE: Neighbors Demand Action On Baltimore’s Persistent Violent Crime As Mayor, Council Talk Strategy

“This will have absolutely no impact on water, human health or fish—only midge, fly and mosquito larva.,” the county executive said. “Together, we will bring down this nuisance problem.”

A spokesperson for Olszewski said Baltimore County and the state will split the cost of the $1.6 million program.

Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell said midges have long been a problem in the area, but it was overlooked by officials who viewed it as an “isolated” issue.

“We were advising back then, based on the science that we knew, that if it wasn’t taken care of on this smaller infestation, that it would spread, and it did,” Crandell said, adding that a $250,000 problem has since become a $1 million problem.

Sam Weaver, who owns a marina in Essex that sits along the river, said his business was losing customer after customer in 2008, but when he went to the county for help back then, nobody seemed to know what to do.

But given that female midges can lay between 100 and 1,000 eggs at a time, Weaver said, he knew it wouldn’t be long for the nuisance to spiral out of control.

MORE NEWS: How To Avoid Heat-Related Illness This Blistering Weekend

“But this administration has stepped up and took the bull by the horns and things are happening now,” Weaver said.

CBS Baltimore Staff