CLOVERDALE – Keith Simmons had to scrub his car a few times before the sticky, whitish film washed off his ride and down the drain.
"It does not come off the first time," the Clayton resident said.
Helicopters spraying the area with chemicals to kill gypsy moths have residents worried about what it’s doing to their health, and that of their children’s.
The helicopters, Simmons said, have been coming in "very low," perhaps 200 feet from the ground.
"You think you’re being attacked." His wife, Susan, shares his concern. "It has covered our cars and our houses and we’ve seen the helicopter that did it but we’ve had no notification of this."
They’re not alone. So far, at the Now’s press deadline, 1,202 people have signed an online petition demanding that the provincial government stop gypsy moth spraying in Surrey and Delta. Also, a couple dozen Surrey residents rallied outside the constituency office of Surrey-Panorama Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux.
Some are afraid they’re being poisoned. After all, it’s not like the government is raining vitamins down on people. It’s a pesticide. The stuff is called Foray 48B.
Despite news stories about people getting sick, Tasleem Juma, spokeswoman for Fraser Health, told the Now the authority hasn’t seen evidence of this.
"We have not had any cases of people coming into the emergency department at Surrey Memorial Hospital or Peace Arch Hospitals due to the gypsy moth spraying."
Still, that’s cold comfort for some.
Surrey resident Jaymie McGregor suspects it "can’t be good for your lungs."
He’s been wiping the stuff off his windows, and has kept samples.
"It’s just disgusting," he said. About collecting samples, he said, "I wanted to have something, just in case. I would really like a test done."
McGregor said that while the helicopter was making a pass in his neighbourhood, his elderly neighbour was out walking his dog and roughly 30 or 40 children were already walking to school.
"I’m a little worried," he said. "Why didn’t they give us more notice, or any notice whatsoever?" The latest spraying was in North Delta
on Wednesday morning (April 29), near Watershed Park and Burns Bog. Parts of Surrey were sprayed Tuesday morning, following a one-day delay due to rain. The next round of spraying is set for May 11.
Tim Ebata, spokesman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, is manning a government information line on the spraying, at 1-866-917-5999. He says he’s been getting angry calls, and calls from people wanting to know when the next bout of
spraying will happen, and where.
He said 45,000 flyers were mailed out to every mailbox in the affected areas.
"We worked really hard to get it done in time," he said, but in some cases were a day late.
A report written by Dr. Lisa Mu, medical health officer for Fraser Health, said the pesticide is known only to affect caterpillars but, "as a precautionary measure, we are advising residents to avoid contact with the spray and stay indoors with the windows and doors closed for at least 30 minutes after the spray has been completed."
Mu suggested residents might want to open their doors and windows five hours after the spraying, to air out any pesticide that may have entered their homes through air vents or other openings.
"Pets should be brought indoors if they may be frightened by the aircraft noise," she wrote. "If you experience health issues following exposure to the spray, please see your GP or go to the nearest emergency department."
Why kill the gypsy moths? They are invasive pests that eat the leaves of trees and shrubs, posing a serious threat to B.C.’s fruit producers, the lumber industry and by extension B.C.’s economy.