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Government Institutes EAB Quarantine, ISPM-15 Treatment OK for Pallets
EAB Quarantine: The Emerald Ash Borer, a pest from Asia that only infests Ash trees in North America, is starting to spread and could cause significant damage.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 1/1/2007

   It’s hard to believe that a pest measuring about half-inch in length is causing so many problems in the Midwest. But the Emerald Ash Borer, a pest from Asia that only infests Ash trees in North America, is starting to spread and could cause significant damage. The EAB threat is significant because early detection is difficult and human activity appears to be a major factor in spreading the pest.

   Concerned about the impact of a full blown outbreak, the federal government has put into effect a quarantine to cover the entire states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has also expanded restrictions in Michigan by doubling the previously quarantined area which includes the entire lower peninsula of Michigan. The new measures went into effect late last year.

   The quarantine bans all interstate movement of ash lumber and wood products that originates within the quarantine area. Regulated articles include ash nursery stock, green lumber, and any other ash material such as logs, pallets, dunnage, stumps, roots, branches, and wood chips.

   APHIS is allowing properly treated material to be shipped from the quarantine area. The government will issue certificates and limited permits on a case by case basis for companies that participate in official USDA compliance programs.

   Pallets tend to be more of a problem if the wood has bark on it. The EAB doesn’t bore more than ½ inch into the hardwood. As a result, the primary focus is bark and the outer cambium layer, not the center of a log where cants come from. Pallet stock made from outer slabs and some scragg material would be more of a problem.


EAB Treatment Procedures

   The first step is to contact the local EAB authorities in your state for more information. See the phone numbers at the end of this article.

   If you are not in an EAB state but do business with quarantine areas, you should contact the federal EAB office to discuss your practices and make sure that you have proper authorization and documentation.

   “In most cases, an entity has to be part of a compliance agreement or program, such as ISPM-15, or some EAB specific compliance program,” said Elizabeth Pentico of APHIS. The government wants to ensure that treatment is being done. This requires some kind of oversight, which is why entities are encouraged to contact their local EAB authorities or APHIS.

   Proper treatment methods and requirements include the following:

   Pallets: Companies within the quarantine area can remove the bark and the outer half-inch of ash lumber or treat pallets with either methyl bromide fumigation or heat treatment according to the ISPM-15 standard. “We are honoring the ISPM-15 treatment,” said Pentico. 

   Even if a pallet only contains a limited amount of ash, it is still covered by the quarantine. Dunnage falls under the same requirement as pallets.

   Pallet Cutstock: The suggested treatment method for pallet cutstock is removal of all bark and the underlining half-inch of wood. Heat treatment or methyl bromide fumigation according to ISPM-15 is acceptable too.

   General Lumber: Removing the bark and outer layer, kiln drying, heat treatment and fumigation are all methods allowed for lumber. A kiln drying treatment schedule is available for lumber as long as the lumber does not exceed three inches in diameter. Contact APHIS to get more details on the treatment requirements for dry kilns. Lumber can also be heat treated or fumigated according to the ISPM-15 standard.

   Firewood: Due to the difficulty in distinguishing between species of hardwood firewood, all hardwood firewood, including ash, oak, maple and hickory are regulated. There are no restrictions on the movement of coniferous species of firewood. Removing the bark and outer layer as described above is one treatment option. Firewood may also be fumigated with methyl bromide or heat treated to 71.1 degrees Celsius for 75 minutes. Contact APHIS to get detailed information on the fumigation treatment schedule required for logs at various conditions.

   Mulch: Mulch processed with a one inch screen is generally sufficient to mitigate any EAB threat, but contact APHIS to get final approval on mulch processing.

   Logs: Ash logs can either be fumigated with methyl bromide or heat treated to 71.1 degrees Celsius for 75 minutes. Contact APHIS to get detailed information on the fumigation treatment schedule required for logs at various conditions.

   Research is ongoing about the susceptibility of the EAB to current treatment methods. Experts are looking for more efficient ways to detect and eradicate the EAB threat. There are some concerns about the effectiveness of some current treatment methods, but APHIS believes these current measures are sufficient enough to slow down the spread of the pest until scientists can come up with more answers. Allowable treatment methods and requirements may change over time. This could be especially true if the EAB spreads to other states.


EAB Background

   With the average adult beetle easily able to fit on a penny, the EAB went undetected for many years until it caused major damage in Detroit. The species was first officially identified in the summer of 2002. Since then, EAB infestations have been found in Michigan, Canada, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and Virginia.

   Authorities believe that the EAB entered the country via wood packaging material in the 1990s.

   Metallic green in color, the EAB has no known predators in North America although woodpeckers will eat them. Native to China and eastern Asia, the EAB only targets ash trees.

   Initial efforts to eradicate the pest or slow down its progress have not been very successful. Current research indicates that the beetle spreads only about a half-mile each year. Thus, the widespread infestation indicates that human activity, especially the transport of wood products, is a primary driver for the EAB problem.

   Detection efforts are not as effective as government officials would like. Craig Kellogg, APHIS’ program coordinator for EAB, said, “We have been chasing the beetle for a couple of years.”

   APHIS hopes that larger quarantine areas will help make the effort more proactive and less reactive in its approach. By the time officials discover an area has been infested, the beetle may have been there for 2-3 years.

Possible EAB Outbreak Impact

   APHIS hopes that quarantine will help to mitigate the spread of the pest while the science community continues to work to develop solutions to combat EAB. To date, USDA has spent more than $100 million on EAB related research, eradication and reforestation efforts.

   USDA estimates that if EAB is not contained or eradicated, it has the potential to cost state and local governments approximately $7 billion over the next 25 years. Currently, EAB is responsible for the death and decline of more than 25 million ash trees in the United States.

   Ash makes up about 7% of all hardwood species in the country. In some parts of the Midwest, ash trees account for 20-40% of forest canopy. The USDA estimates that there are 8 billion ash trees in the country with a value of $282 billion. Without an effective eradication and prevention program, the pest could wipe out a lot of those trees. Ash, known to be a very hard lumber species, is used for baseball bats, pallets and some other wood products.

   Oak and ash are the dominant hardwood lumber species used in pallets in some parts of the country. Any regulation of ash would have a major impact on pallet and cut stock suppliers in affected regions.


EAB Compliance          

   Due to the difficulty in determining the origin of any pallet, lumber or wood material, the government is requiring compliance for any regulated product that is shipped from a quarantine area. Pallets and other wood material containing ash, where origin is not easily identifiable, will be covered by the quarantine even if the product does not originate in one of the regulated states. For example, a pallet that is made of ash from Kentucky and is shipped to a customer in Ohio is covered by the quarantine. Once the customer places a load on the pallet and attempts to ship it out of state, the company is violating the quarantine unless the product has been properly treated or is compliant with EAB regulations as determined by USDA.

   Ultimately, the pallet user may be the one responsible depending on the circumstances. Kellogg said, “The person shipping the quarantined product out of state is responsible for compliance with federal restrictions on interstate movement.” If the pallet company and its lumber supplier are in the same state and a pallet user is the entity that ships a pallet out state, then the user is the one responsible for complying with the quarantine.

   Some states have restrictions too on movements within states from county to county. Companies in affected states should check with their local agriculture department to find out any local restrictions.   

   Although the government may consider the packaging user to be the one responsible for compliance, pallet companies need to provide answers to customers and take the initiative to provide compliant products. If a customer gets harassed or fined by APHIS for non compliance, the pallet supplier could lose the customer. The wood pallet industry should make it as easy as possible for customers to use their products. Any problem associated with wood pallets will only give alternatives an advantage in the marketplace.

   Kellogg reported having visited pallet companies within the quarantine area where EAB larvae were found on manufactured pallets. The U.S. government is looking to work with companies in the quarantine areas to develop workable solutions.

   People should be especially aware of any activity that could spread EAB during its primary flight season from May to September. That is when the pest is most likely to vacate a tree and look for another one to infest.  

Enforcement Procedures

   Smart pallet companies must begin to educate themselves and their customers so that nobody is caught off guard. The quarantine went into effect December 1, 2006. Initially, APHIS is being somewhat understanding while industry and local governments get up to speed on the requirements. However, both APHIS and local agencies can assess fines at any time. Under the Plant Protection Act of 2000, violations of a domestic quarantine may result in a monetary fine up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment.

   Kellogg compared APHIS enforcement to the speed limit. Just like the local police do not catch every speeder, some quarantine violators may go undetected. But there is a risk involved with non-compliant activity. APHIS hopes its enforcement efforts will help keep people honest and educate the public while penalizing any egregious violators. 

   See the contact information on page 43 for more information on how you can become compliant with the new EAB requirements.



EAB Facts

• In a temperate climate, the beetle can develop from egg to adult in as little as one year. Females lay eggs in bark crevices which later develop into wormlike larvae. These larvae  tunnel under the bark to feed and grow throughout the fall. This activity eventually kills the tree. Larvae lay dormant during the winter and emerge from trees in May as adults.

• On this continent, EAB attacks only ash trees, and all the ashes—green, white, and black, etc.—are at risk except the mountain ashes, which are not a true ash.

• EAB infestation is generally fatal to ash trees. Infested trees will decline from the top down and will be dead in 1 to 3 years, even if the trees were healthy before being attacked by EAB. It is extremely difficult to determine whether an ash tree is infested or not infested with EAB because tree decline is usually gradual.

• Early symptoms of an infestation might include dead branches near the top of a tree or perhaps wild, leafy shoots growing out from its lower trunk. D-shaped exit holes and bark splits exposing S-shaped tunnels are significant signs of EAB.

• If a tree is infested with the EAB, tree removal is recommended as the most effective way to eliminate these exotic pests.



Web Sites/Phone Numbers

For more information, visit the following sites or contact local authorities.

APHIS                           www.aphis.usda.gov

Interagency Web Site   www.emeraldashborer.info

APHIS/National EAB Program 866-322-4512 (toll free)

Michigan 810-844-2705    Ohio 614-387-1095    Indiana 765-446-0267

Illinois 847-299-6939    Maryland 410-224-3452


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