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Controversial gypsy moth pesticide program hits Pierce County

KOMO

FIFE, Wash. -- A controversial pesticide program will be underway Saturday in Pierce County.

It's a move to fight off the troubling gypsy moth and will impact communities all over Western Washington.

"Once it become established it becomes very difficult to do anything that slows it down," said Hector Castro, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "We don't want it to become established at all in Washington State."

Asian and European gypsy Moths have been detected this year in Washington. The invasive insects have ferocious appetites for maple and oak and foliage from trees and plants. The Washington State Department of Agriculture says the damage caused by the moths would have serious economic and environmental implications.

Saturday the state will start spraying seven areas in Western Washington with a pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki or Btk.

"It's very important that this pest be dealt with," said John Thurlow who lives near an area that will be sprayed in Tacoma.

An area in Vancouver will also be sprayed Saturday, then the states moves onto Kent, Lacey, Gig Harbor, Nisqually and Seattle's Capitol Hill. This year the WSDA will use a red and white fixed wing plane to drop the pesticide 250 feet above ground level.

While many support the drops of Btk, others like T Michael Gardner recently told KOMO News he tented his yard in Ballard when the state sprayed for gypsy moths 10 years ago because he didn't trust the pesticide was safe.

"We had our toxicologists look at the entire ingredients for the Btk agent that we'll be spraying and we have concluded that it is very low risk very low health concern for the general population," said Lauren Jenks with the Washington State Department of Health.

Jenks say people who could be impacted by the spraying are those with repertory issues.

"We recommend they try to minimize their exposure to the Btk by staying inside for up to a half hour after the spray," said Jenks.

The state says they will be spraying early in the mornings and every area must be treated three different times.

The schedule is subject and dependent on weather.

For more information about the program and a schedule for the spraying is available online.

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