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Residents point out potholes, standing water as potential Zika threat

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

As New Orleans officials asks residents to dump out standing water near their homes to fight the potential spread of Zika, homeowners complain the city's water leaks and potholes may be one of the biggest culprits for breeding mosquitoes.

"There are definitely potholes where there is water that has been sitting there for over week. I'm no mosquito scientist. I'm no street scientist," Fix My Streets' Jeff Januszek said. "But we're here to say let's get these streets fixed properly, and let's get rid of the notion that there may be standing water in a pothole for a week." 

This week, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the city is allocating an extra $500,000 to mosquito abatement and control, and city leaders urged residents to take the fight on themselves. 

"We need everyone to check their yards for standing water. The sources should be dumped, drained, cleaned and removed to decrease the mosquito breeding population," Interim Director of New Orleans Health Department Dr. Jeff Elder said.

But a quick look around the city reveals there are several spots where mosquitoes breed and homeowners can do little about it.

"We noticed they didn't address standing water in potholes, and there's a lot of potholes in New Orleans," Januszek said. "I'm sure there are a lot of residents who have these in front of their homes."

Standing water is a regular occurrence in the city because of leaking water from busted pipes has no where else to go. Larva can be seen in many of the standing water left by those leaks. 

The mayor's office downplayed the concern of potholes breeding mosquitoes by saying the two species of mosquitoes known to transmit Zika do not commonly breed in potholes. 

But city officials did admit there are certain circumstances where mosquito species can breed in potholes, and they asked residents to call 311 to report any such issues. 

"Beyond Zika, the mosquitoes still breed [in potholes]. So it's still a nuisance even if they're not carrying," Lakeview resident Ashley Ebanks said.  

A pothole filled with water sits right outside Ebanks' home. 
    
With no mosquito born Zika cases reported in Louisiana thus far, she admitted she is not so much worried about Zika as much as she is her quality of life. 

"I'm more concerned about flat tires and mosquitoes, and when it gets deeper into the summer, it's a challenge," she said. "It's a public health issue." 

But it's not just standing water in the streets residents have to deal with as potential spots where mosquitoes breed. 
    
At the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, an old loading dock locked behind a gate sits overgrown and filled with standing water, putting not only residents who live nearby but also city workers potentially at risk. 

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