More than 4,500 homes in the Olympus Cove area in the eastern part of Salt Lake County are being quarantined by the Utah Department of Agriculture in an all-out program to eradicate the gypsy moth.

The moth was first detected in Utah July 21 last year and almost the entire infestation has been pinpointed in the Olympus Cove area.If left unchecked, agriculture officials say the pest could destroy fruit trees, oak and other hardwood trees and watershed - costing millions of dollars - and could lead to more restrictive quarantines and the reduction of property values.

The Olympus Cove Community Council will begin sending residents quarantine notices this weekend and early next week in its regular water bill envelopes and two dozen 24-inch by 30-inch signs announcing the gypsy moth quarantine will be placed on seven-foot-tall steel posts in strategic locations throughout the area by mid-April.

The quarantine will be officially in effect when residents have been notified and the quarantine signs put up - probably by mid-April, according to Van E. Burgess, director of plant industry for the Utah Department of Agriculture.

He said Friday the quarantine includes 6,000 acres and extends east two miles from I-215 and Wasatch Boulevard to the Wasatch Mountains and from Parley's Canyon south to the boundary of Mount Olympus with Wasatch Boulevard.

Burgess said the quarantine applies to "boats, campers and other recreational vehicles, mobile homes, camping gear, trees, shrubs and prunings, timber, building material and outdoor household and garden items.

"These items may not be moved out of the quarantine area without being inspected and/

or treated and an inspection sticker issued. Failure to comply with quarantine provisions can mean a fine of up to $5,000," Burgess said.

In addition, people moving into the quarantine area will need to register with the Utah Department of Agriculture and traps will be set up in their yard to see if any gypsy moths are present.

How long will the quarantine last?

Burgess said it may last all year or even several years "until we get rid of the gypsy moth."

Betty Hawkes, whose husband, Ralph Hawkes, is a member of the Olympus Cove Community Council, said Friday she doesn't think the quarantine "will be much of a bother.

"If people obey the rules, everything should be fine. The spraying will be done before people get up in the morning, so that shouldn't be a problem.

"People moving in will have to be checked, but that's how the gypsy moth got here in the first place _ by somebody from out of town bringing it here."

Burgess said spraying is expected to start early in May _ "during a two- to three-week window when the gypsy moth caterpillar has hatched from its egg and is most vulnerable to pesticide."

He said the spray, Bacillus Thuringiensis Insecticide or, simply B.t., will be administered to 1,190 acres inside the quarantine area, generally from 30th South to 50th South, but several blocks east of I-215 and Wasatch Boulevard and extending onto 122 acres of U.S. Forest Service land east of Olympus Cove and up Mill Creek Canyon to Tracy Wigwam Boy Scout Camp.

"Helicopters will fly from 50 to 100 feet off the ground to deliver the spray. We'll go up early in the morning, about 6 or 7 a.m. and spray the entire 1,190 acres. Then we'll spray again in five to 10 days and spray a third time in another five to 10 days."

He said the chemical spray, B.t., "contains a naturally occurring bacterium that specifically attacks only the caterpillar stage of moths and butterflies. B.t. has no harmful effects on people, wildlife, pets, livestock or honeybees in eradication programs. This treatment has been successful in similar programs in other states."