WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Watertown’s trees are under attack.

Specifically, the City’s ash trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer.

Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive beetle that targets ash trees, according to the City’s Planning Department. The pest feeds on and destroys a tree’s vascular tissues, which limits the movement and availability of water and nutrients.

EAB was first discovered in Watertown in October 2019. Now, its infestation is city-wide.

“We estimate that we are at about year nine of infestation,” City Planner and Licensed Arborist Michael DeMarco said. “We are seeing some rapid tree mortality in various neighborhoods in different parts.”

As of June 2023, the City had removed 185 infested ash trees to combat the spread of the beetle.

But the City has also contracted Rustic Pines, LLC to chemically treat 91 ash trees in various locations through June 8.

“Once the pesticide is in the tree, the tree takes it up and it essentially kills any larvae or adult beetles that are in the tree,” DeMarco explained.

Pesticide application will be conducted on street trees, neighborhood park trees and ash trees in Thompson Park. But DeMarco assured that this is a contained process and human pesticide exposure is not a concern.

“This is an injection into the base of the tree,” he said. “Much like an inoculation, if you will. So the pesticide is contained within the tree and then it is completely safe for our citizens.”

Ash trees will have to be re-treated every two years.

Additionally, to reduce future risks, the City’s Planning Department has also planned the proactive removal of ash trees outside of the treatment population.

“We do have this under control,” DeMarco added. “We’ve got our DPW staff that are regularly taking down ash trees throughout the year. We expect to take down just a couple dozen before winter.”

Planning and Community Development Department Staff will communicate tree removal and replacement efforts directly with property owners who live near city-owned ash trees.

If there is adequate room for tree planting, a site-appropriate tree species will be replanted at each removal site through Watertown’s annual tree replacement program.