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School Children Hit By Gypsy Moth Spray

May 17, 1986

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Complaints flooded a police switchboard after insecticide fell on up to 50 schoolchildren during aerial spraying for gypsy moths, but a state official said Friday residents were warned of the spraying.

Mayor John Robertson called the state Thursday morning and demanded the spraying be stopped after residents of this Gloucester County community complained.

″I asked them to get the planes out of the air. They did, and I don’t care if they ever come back,″ he said.

The mayor said Friday that 25 to 50 children were sprayed, but there were no reports of students suffering from adverse reactions.

″I am incensed that they’ve bombed out kids again,″ said Robertson, referring to a similar incident last year in the township.

The planes were spraying Baccillus thurigiensis, a bacterium known as Bt that attacks the digestive tract of gypsy moths, which devour tree leaves if left unchecked.

The insecticide is harmless to humans, but may cause hives in sensitive people, according to the state Agriculture Department.

William Metterhouse, the state coordinator of gypsy moth spraying, said Friday that the township was notified Tuesday of an intention to spray Thursday, starting at 5:30 a.m., if conditions permitted.

But township administrator Louis Bezich said the notice of less than 24 hours was insufficient for school administrators who wanted to delay the opening of school on the morning of the spraying.

Local television stations were notified of the spray and emergency personnel cruised neighborhoods with bullhorns Wednesday between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Bezich said.

Despite those warnings, many residents in the 1,515 affected acres had no idea spraying would begin Thursday morning.

Eileen Azzarano, a teacher’s aide at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, said she was in her car when she saw a group of children waiting for the school bus.

The youngsters were playing with a helium balloon that marks the area to be sprayed, she said.

″When the plane made its pass ... it sprayed the kids, and I had it all over my car,″ she said.

At the school annex to St. Jude’s church, where about 160 first-and second- graders attend classes, a plane sprayed the insecticide on school buses and the school building, parents said.

″My daughter said the planes were actually hitting the buses with the stuff,″ said Cathy Lonergan, whose 7-year-old daughter, Bridget, attends the school.

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