Gypsy moth spray program winds down

Final set of aerial treatments over Cloverdale, and parts of Surrey/Delta, has come to an end.

Gypsy moth caterpillar. Nearly 200 male European gypsy moths were caught in pheromone traps last summer in Cloverdale on trees along 64 Avenue.

Residents of Cloverdale and other parts of Surrey and Langley, the early morning wake-up calls are over.

The gypsy moth aerial spray program was completed earlier today (Tuesday), the provincial government has announced.

The third and final round of the Forests Ministry’s treatment program got underway Sunday – Mothers’ Day – as some residents noted unhappily, reacting to a reminder issued to residents last week.

The three helicopters completed the remaining sections of the Surrey-Cloverdale block, the announcement said. The eastern helicopter started the morning re-treating the last few lines treated on Monday, which had to be redone because of a rain squall.

Conducted between 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on consecutive mornings, most of the spraying was expected to wrap up Tuesday, even as residents living in the spray area continued to ask questions about the safety of the treatment agent – and how the project has been handled in terms of informing the public.

More than 4,500 hectares in Surrey – centred around 64 Avenue and 176 Street in Cloverdale – and another 200 in Delta have been  treated with Foray 48B to combat the introduced moth, which is destructive to forests, orchards, farms and urban trees.

Susan Simmons says residents weren’t given enough advance warning of the aerial spray program, or that each treatment would last several days.

She also says her health has been affected by the spray, which contains Btk, deemed safe by Health Canada, along with non active ingredients to help spread the pesticide, which is harder to find information about, reassuring or otherwise, she said.

“Many people have been affected,” she said. “They also said that the residue could be easily washed off. It took three hours to clean my car.”

She urged Reporter readers to contact their MLA and the Ministry of Forests (1-866-917-5999) with their concerns and questions.

“There are lots of people who are sick and frustrated with a lack of notice,” Simmons added.

Another Cloverdalian questioning the safety of the treatment agent was Ryan Bennett, who started a Facebook page, held protest outside local MLA Stephanie Cadieux’s office, and launched an online petition that at last count had gathered more than 12,500 supporters, in an attempt to stop the spray program.

“Although the focus of the spraying is on Btk being a safe bacteria, which the City of Surrey, province of B.C. and Health Canada can claim is safe, it is in fact the Foray 48B mix, along with numerous undisclosed ingredients that has the impact on human health,” the petition read.

“We now have over 1,200 documented allergic reactions to this mix but Health Canada has chosen not to step in and investigate,” it continued.

On Monday, Tasleem Juma, a senior public affairs consultant, said Fraser Health is aware of only two incidents where individuals went to Langley Hospital as a precaution after not feeling well after the first aerial spraying in mid-April.

Tim Ebata, a forest health officer with the forests ministry, said there will be high-density trapping of moths using pheromone traps in the sprayed area over the next two summers to gauge the success of the spray program.

“Two years of negatives indicates an eradication has been successful,” he said.

In terms of notification, the forests ministry found it had to work harder than in the past to get the message out.  Ebata said notification was initially by traditional media ahead of the first round of spraying but that was supplemented with a drop of 45,000 flyers ahead of the second and third rounds as well as electronic road signs.

Many calls the ministry received were noise complaints about the low-flying helicopters, he said.

“They were caught off guard,” he said. “And people who feel they have to protect themselves from making contact with the droplets were upset because they didn’t get that opportunity.”

The ministry plans to finish spraying this week and “hopefully won’t come back again,” he said. “We apologize to the public for the inconvenience.”

A May 1 advisory from the Ministry of Forests said as a general precaution, people who wanted to reduce their exposure were to remain indoors with windows and doors closed during spraying, and for at least 30 minutes after.

It also told anyone with health conditions who are concerned to contact their health care provider, or to contact HealthLink BC, available 24 hours a day, by dialing 811.

“The results of two extensive public-health monitoring studies in Vancouver and Victoria (1992 and 1999) did not show any increase in illnesses seen by health-care providers or in hospital emergency-room visits due to spraying,” the advisory states. “As well, the monitoring has not shown evidence of harmful effects on children with asthma or those with weakened immune systems.”


– Files Jeff Nagel

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