Town uses horizontal grinder for emerald ash borer cleanup
Arborists across the United States have watched in despair as the emerald ash borer (EAB) appeared in Michigan and slowly worked its way south and west, leaving a trail of damaged and dead ash trees in its path. According to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), EAB poses a threat to North American trees unlike any disease or invasive species since Dutch elm disease struck 80 years ago.
EAB spreads as adult beetles lay their eggs in ash trees. As the eggs reach the immature larvae stage, they get their nourishment from the tree — eventually killing it. As the larvae tunnel and feed, they create S-shaped galleries on the trunk of the tree.
The first signs of EAB were spotted in the town of Cheektowaga, located in western New York, in early 2013, according to Mark Wegner, highway superintendent for the town.
“The EAB larvae circle around the trunk of the tree, taking out its respiratory system,” explains Wegner. “That compromises the structural integrity of the tree, and then the tree limbs become a public safety issue.”
Wegner estimates that approximately 25 percent of the town of Cheektowaga’s ash trees have been infected by EAB.
“When the EAB hit, it hit hard and fast,” says Wegner. “There wasn’t time to treat the trees. It spread through the town within a couple months.”
As the town started to evaluate the damage, they realized the cleanup costs were going to add up quickly. Local private contractors estimated it would cost about $400,000 to remove and dispose of the infected trees. Wegner realized it would be a better investment for the town to purchase the tree care equipment themselves so they could utilize it throughout the year on other projects.
In the fall of 2015, the town applied for and received a grant from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to purchase a new Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder.
The HG6000 is on Vermeer Corporation’s National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) contract, so the Town of Cheektowaga was able to utilize their NJPA membership to make the purchase, making NJPA the common denominator in their procurement process. The Town of Cheektowaga was given the opportunity to save time and resources through this cooperative contract that satisfies the bid process.
“Thanks to the grant money, we were able to purchase a grinder for the same price it would’ve cost us to hire private contractors to complete the project,” says Wegner. “Now the town has an asset to complete other tree and brush removal work.”
Putting the grinder to use
In the fall of 2015, the HG6000 was used to process 187 trees that were removed from Cheektowaga Town Park — a large recreational area which is home to the town’s swimming pool and hockey facility.
Cheektowaga has only just begun their EAB cleanup effort, and they have already put 200 hours on the HG6000.
“We have been very impressed by the fuel efficiency of the grinder,” says Wegner. “As of right now, we have 743 ash trees in the town’s right-of-ways that need to come down. When you’re working for a municipality, and facing that kind of cleanup effort, every dollar counts.”