04/22/2015 10:39 EDT | Updated 07/16/2015 07:59 EDT

Stop gypsy moth spraying in Surrey and Delta, on-line petition asks

A Surrey man has launched an online petition to try and stop the spraying of an insecticide to control gypsy moths, which he claims is making himself and his neighbours sick.

"The health risk to residents outweighs any of the reward of killing this pest," said Ryan Bennett who launched the on-line petition called Stop gypsy Moth Spraying in Surrey/Delta.

"Here we are after precedent being set ... here we are still being sprayed."

Gypsy moths can be incredibly destructive as they will feed on more than 500 species of trees, shrubs and plants. 

Last summer, 200 gypsy moths were caught in traps set in trees in Surrey. This year because of the warmer-than-usual spring, caterpillars that feast on tree leaves are already emerging. 

The provincial government says it conducted an extensive communication campaign to advise residents of the spraying, even telling people concerned about the spray to remain indoors with their windows and doors closed during treatments for at least 30 minutes afterwards.

Bennett says he and his family woke up to low-flying helicopters in their Clayton Heights' neighbourhood last week and had no idea what was going on.

Soon after that, Bennett claims he along with his eight-month-pregnant partner and two children began experiencing symptoms.

Itchy skin, dry eyes, upset stomach

"Itchy skin, dry eyes, upset stomach ... primarily sort of an odd dizzy feeling," he said.

Last week, a man in Surrey was taken to hospital in relation to the spraying after having trouble breathing.

The spray, called Foray 48B, contains a bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars after they ingest it.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, the spray is not toxic to humans.

"The actual ingredient, which is an organism that is present in soil naturally, and the other ingredients are not toxic to people," said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, last week.

Bennett isn't convinced. He's worried about the health impact of the spray but also what he describes as a lack of consultation with residents by the province along with the City of Delta and Surrey.

"Nobody can argue that, collectively the residents of Surrey and Delta, our rights have been violated," he said.

His petition asks that the spraying be stopped — a second round is set to begin on April 27 — and that B.C.'s Environmental Appeal Board rule on whether the insecticide is really needed in Surrey and Delta.

The EAB has ruled on similar cases in the past and has cancelled permits to spray, like one in New Westminster.

"All we're asking is them, [is] to stop and put this in front of the EAB like other municipalities have so that there can be an actual decision made," said Bennett. "That's all we're asking."