A Buckhorn woman is raising alarm bells after a helicopter sprayed herbicide on her while she was out riding her horse in the area on Saturday night.
At about 6 p.m. Shandy Andrysiak set off from home on Indy, a "big, red" Paint-Quarterhorse mix, heading east along Buckhorn Road and then the Willowcale Forest Service Road. From there, she turned left onto a logging road and, after about a quarter-kilometre, she turned onto a trail that leads to the snowmobile access trail to Frost Lake.
She continued on the trail through one logging block and then, as she was about to enter a second block, "a helicopter came over top of us, right across the top of the trees. (It) freaked my horse right out and I could see he had the sprayers coming out each side."
But because the pilot wasn't spraying, Andrysiak continued on to the snowmobile trails.
By about 8:30 p.m., she was riding back along the same route.
"As I'm heading onto the logging blocks again and the first part of the trails coming back, all of a sudden there's two helicopters going back and forth over me," Andrysiak said. "I got doused, for sure I got doused."
That said, Andrysiak said she was hit indirectly but it was enough to make her worried.
"It wasn't like I was drenched in this stuff or anything but I came back home and showered," Andrysiak said.
When she checked with the poison control hotline, Andrysiak was told to see a doctor if she started coughing. So far, that symptom has not emerged.
Andrysiak said she saw no indication there was going to be spraying in the area. As she was about to turn onto the trail, she noticed some blue bags attached to some trees.
"I said, 'well, that's kind of odd,' but this spring they were logging in there again so I didn't really pay that much attention to it," Andrysiak said.
Canfor spokeswoman Corinne Stavness noted in an email to The Citizen that after the spraying had been completed a field technician leaving the area in a white Canfor crew truck saw a woman on a horse.
"He said that he waved to her and she waved back but did not indicate that she wanted to speak with him," Stavness said.
Andrysiak said that's true but at the time her horse was misbehaving and she was preoccupied with getting it under control rather than complaining to the technician. Plus, she wanted to get back to her Buckhorn home before dark.
But after she returned home and took the shower, she went on Facebook and asked her neighbours if anyone knew why there was spraying going on. It caught everyone by surprise.
"No one knew about it," Andrysiak said.
The trouble appears to stem from the placement of a warning notice regarding spraying. The next day a neighbour found one attached to a tree about a kilometre further along the logging road from where Andrysiak had turned onto the trail, which she said is a popular route in the area.
"She said nobody would see it," Andrysiak said. "It should've been at the front of the road where everybody can see it."
The notice said the herbicide Weed Master was being sprayed as a conifer release starting at 8 p.m. and it advised people to stay out of the area for 24 hours. A Canfor silviculture supervisor was listed as the contact.
Canfor officials met on Wednesday with Andrysiak and the neighbour who found the notice. The meeting "went really well," Andrysiak said, with the officials promising to take steps to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
The measures include a bigger effort to let residents know when spraying is occurring by not only posting notices at better locations along the roadsides but in the area's general stores and in the community newsletter.
Andrysiak said she has volunteered to act as the contact person to help get the word out.
Stavness confirmed as much in an email.
"Our operations team met with her in person to review the incident, and in reviewing timelines and locations, it’s clear that our pilots should have seen her in their pre-work, but did not and that she was not aware our crews were working in the area," Stavness said.
Andrysiak said she was told they were spraying a glysophate to control willow and aspen in the area and that in small doses it should not cause any harm. But she said she's going to see her doctor and has filed a report with the Ministry of Environment, which is investigating.