Scarborough company certified to move tainted ash wood

TORONTO – A Toronto company has become the only one in the region certified to handle and move quarantined trees tainted by the Emerald Ash Borer.

As of spring, 2014, Urban Tree Salvage is the only salvage company in Toronto with special permission to move products made from Ash trees beyond the borders of quarantines set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Co-founder of Urban Trees, Sean Gorham, says the certification will  allow them to “ship that wood across the world.”

Ash products in southern and central Ontario, as well as parts of southern Quebec cannot be moved from those areas because of a quarantine aimed to stop the spread of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer often goes undetected until a tree is already severely damaged or dying,  Toronto’s urban forestry director, Beth McEwen.  The borers also fly well and breed quickly.

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Toronto is in the process of removing 14,000 trees that were damaged or dying due to the borer in 2014.

“If they’re not dead, they’re on their way out.” says McEwen.

The certification requires ash lumber to be heat-treated to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.5 Celsius degrees) for an extended period of time.

“It gets heat into the core of the wood and kills any insects that may be deep inside the wood,” says Gorham.

Urban Tree then leaves the lumber a dry-heat kiln for up to five weeks.

Urban Tree must also undergo monthly audits by the CFIA to maintain the certification.

“We have to have documents that we do hit all of these temperatures,” says Gorham, “We have to be able to track pieces of wood through the cycle.”

Staff with the city of Toronto say all of the city’s ash trees are at risk from the Emerald Ash Borer.

“They live in the ring of live wood, under the bark” McEwen said.

The insects’ larvae feed on the rings of the tree.

“That is the part responsible for the flow of nutrients,” says McEwen.  “It essentially chokes the tree to death.”

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“When we found it in Toronto in 2007, we estimated it had been here for many years – maybe as many as six years.”