Helpful Information for Residents

Invasive Insect Threatens Ash Trees in Union County
Berkeley Heights to Take Countermeasures

May 2020 - The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect native to Asia that has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees (Fraxinus species) has now been found in Union County. Three years ago, as the insect was found in other counties, Berkeley Heights took action to protect ash trees in the municipality and applied for a Community Forestry Grant to treat ash trees along the right of way. 

This year Berkeley Heights is continuing treatment and has awarded a contract to Keiling Tree Care of Basking Ridge. The company has a website, employs a certified tree expert, and holds a pesticide license.

“The company was the low bidder,” said Environmental Commissioner Richard Leister, “and meets all the qualifications for the work.”

Ash trees can be infested by the emerald ash borer years before the tree begins to show symptoms of infestation, which begins when female beetles lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. The eggs hatch and larvae bore into the bark to vessels underneath that carry fluid.

As the larvae feed and develop, they cut off the flow of nutrients, eventually killing the tree within three to five years. Symptoms of infestation include canopy dieback, woodpecker activity, missing bark, D-shaped exit holes, shoots sprouting from the trunk, and S-shaped larval galleries under the bark. The ash borer has killed hundreds of millions of trees in North America.

If an ash tree is already infested or in poor health, it may be best to remove the tree before it poses a hazard to people and surrounding structures, according to the NJ DEP. Communities, businesses, and residents with high-value, healthy ash trees can treat the trees before any infestation occurs.

Anyone who sees emerald ash borer or suspected evidence of tree damage is urged to call the New Jersey Department of Agriculture as soon as possible at (609) 406-6939 or a DEP forest health specialist at (609) 984-3861.

Several insecticide options are available to protect landscape ash trees threatened by EAB. A Certified Tree Expert or Forester who holds a pesticide license can help evaluate, treat, or remove infested ash trees. Check for a list of tree professionals serving your area.

"Not all ash trees along the right of way are treated," said Richard Leister. "Small ash trees will be removed and any large ash trees that may be compromised will be marked for removal."

Here’s how to identify an ash tree:

Identify Ash Trees
The ash borer is about 1/2" long and 1/8" wide:

Emerald Ash Borer

Watch Out for Tree Volcanoes

It’s spring, and homeowners and landscapers are preparing their gardens, pruning their trees and shrubs, and mulching. The NJ Shade Tree Federation recommends that the best mulches for trees are shredded pine or hardwood bark at least 3/8” in size, pine needles, one-year old wood chips, or shredded and composted leaves. But the Federation warns against building volcanoes on tree trunks. Instead, start six inches from the tree trunk and mulch outward to the edge of the dripline. Keep the mulch about 3 inches deep. You may use woven landscape fabric or newspaper under the mulch in heavy weed areas. But don’t use plastic under the mulch.
Tree Volcano

Harmful Effects of Using Rock Salt on Outside Household Surfaces

Many local households use rock salt to melt ice and snow from outside surfaces, however it can pose hazards to humans, pets and property. Rock salt may scorch plants and impact soil quality resulting in depressed yield and growth if applied on surfaces that are close to vegetated areas. Salt residue may build up and cause permanent damage to asphalt, pavements, wood decks and floors. When pets walk on surfaces treated with rock salt, it can attach to the animals’ paw pads causing irritation or burning. Once pets step on rock salt, they are likely to lick their paws, which once ingested, can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, extreme fatigue, unusual drooling. Lastly, when applied in large quantities, rock salt may find its way into groundwater supplies which can ultimately harm aquatic animals and humans. Alternatives to rock salt include: use of electric-powered snow blowers, non-toxic ice melt and sand.

Want to Remove a Tree? You Need a Permit!

If anyone wants to remove a deciduous tree over 8 inches in diameter or an evergreen tree over 6 feet tall from a property or right of way, the Township ordinance requires they apply for a permit. The tree ordinance applies to all properties in the township regardless of where the tree is located: commercial property, private residences, and school properties. Any person violating or causing to be violated any of the provisions this chapter shall be subject to a fine.

How Can Berkeley Heights Manage Flooding?

It’s clear: The primary cause of flooding problems is too many impervious surfaces that drain directly onto adjoining properties and into our storm sewers and waterways. This is particularly a problem with major rain events, and these are expected to become more frequent and more severe due to climate change. We need to intercept stormwater runoff by capturing it at source, infiltrating it into the ground, reusing it or releasing it more slowly.

The Environmental Commission is promoting the use of “green infrastructure” to do this wherever possible. Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to stormwater management, encompassing rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, and permeable pavements. This contrasts with the more traditionally used “gray infrastructure” such as pipes, gutters and basins.

The Environmental Commission has begun working with the Engineering Department to develop a stormwater management ordinance that goes beyond state minimum requirements to reduce local flooding risks. The ordinance seeks to achieve these goals through new retention requirements, a lower threshold for applicability to minor developments, and additional requirements for green (vs. gray) infrastructure.

You can find more information on green infrastructure here:

Lawn Fertilization Tips

When you’re fertilizing the lawn, remember you’re not just fertilizing the lawn

Now that the warmer weather is here, many of us are thinking about fertilizing our lawns, to restore them to that perfect early-summer green.  But run-off from lawns and gardens can carry nutrients – especially phosphorus and nitrogen – into our streams and rivers, where they can cause blue-green algae to proliferate.  These algal “blooms” can spoil the water quality, disrupt the environment for other wild creatures, and produce odor and toxins that may be unpleasant or even harmful to people and pets.

You can minimize the impact of your lawn treatments on the natural environment by:

  • Not applying fertilizer when a runoff-producing rainfall is expected or when the soil is already saturated;
  • Ensuring you don’t spread or spill fertilizers on impervious surfaces;
  • Avoiding the use of phosphorus-containing fertilizers altogether;
  • Mulching tree leaves and grass clippings as alternatives to synthetic fertilizers – mulching grass clippings instead of bagging them reduces the need for fertilizer by as much as one-half;
  • For properties adjacent to streams and other bodies of water, maintaining a buffer of natural vegetation along the water’s edge to filter runoff.

For more information, see: and