Three Greenbelt trees were positively identified with Dutch Elm disease and have been removed, according to Matt Berres, manager of maintenance operations for Greenbelt Homes Inc. (GHI).
Although removed, Berres said he could not guarantee that Greenbelt has seen the last of the disease that has downed millions of American elm trees.
"You cannot ever assure 100 percent containment," said Berres. "What you're looking for is to minimize the risk."
In early August, Berres said he and a GHI staff person noticed a problem with an elm tree on 25 Ridge Rd. that was on city property. By late August, it was clear Dutch elm was to blame and that two GHI trees on 24 Ridge also were infected, he said.
GHI and the City of Greenbelt worked together to tackle the problem, and the trees came down in early September, Berres said.
"Our concern was containment," Berres said. "We did not want to leave residual materials that could potentially further the spread of this to other elm trees in town."
Berres said GHI and the city got rid of the trees entirely and even ground out the root mass. They also had wood particles cleaned up and hauled away.
Elm trees nationwide have been attacked by the tiny elm bark beetle.
"It is a fungus that does the damage, but it's carried by the beetle," Berres said.
Since it was detected in the 1930s, the infection has killed as many as 100 million American elm trees, a species known for its graceful canopy, writes D'Vera Cohn with the Washington Post.
GHI doesn't have an exact count of its elms, but says there are many.
Beyond cutting down trees, when it comes to pest control there are some treatments that can be applied directly to trees, but they aren't terribly effective, according to Berres. So GHI determined tree removal to be the most prudent way to contain the problem, he said.
For its part, the city did attempt pest control. Bartlett Tree Experts applied chemical micro injections to elm trees, according to Lesley Riddle, assistant director at Greenbelt Public Works.
"We've done preventative treatment on a number of the significant elms in the proximity of the diseased elm as well as the Community Center," Riddle said.
Riddle also said citizens should have their trees inspected on a regular basis.
"It's just like your furnace," Riddle said. "You wouldn't let your furnace go 6 or 7 years without making sure it was safe." If it's a private tree, Riddle said owners should have it inspected annually.