Jacksonville Investigates Tree Deaths Near Wastewater Treatment Plant

The city of Jacksonville is investigating mysterious deaths of trees.

Since 2007, trees in a city-owned forest have been dying and experts are trying to figure out why. The deaths are limited to a 2-thousand acre section where a wastewater land treatment system is located. It treats wastewater from the city and then irrigates the forest land with the treated liquid.

All of the trees that are dying are in the irrigated part of the forest.
The dead trees don't seem to have any major differences from the trees that are surviving except they are small- 10 inches in diameter or smaller.

City Manager Richard Woodruff says there are 3 theories to the tree deaths. Maybe they are being over watered, the PH level in the soil might be wrong, and some experts think the deaths might have been caused by the 2007-2008 drought.

The city is bringing in more experts to study the problem in February and will have a public meeting about the findings February 9th.


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  • by michaels' tree service Location: Jacksonville on Feb 2, 2011 at 08:51 AM
    "over watering" itself is not usually a concern for local trees, unless it is intended to include the premisis that standing water is left too long over a major percentage of the root system, which in turn would suffocate the tree, the tree essentially breathes through the root system. Are there any other factors such as compaction or changing of the water table over the root system that may be a factor even in normal watering/precipitation patterns?
  • by Marcellus Location: Pennsylvania on Jan 27, 2011 at 06:19 AM
    Is there any shale drilling for gas going on in the area? Pennsylvania is having problems from hydraulic fracturing (frac) wastewater that is being taken to municipal sewer authorities, partly because it can be 5-times saltier than ocean water.
  • by Pat Location: Marshall, Mo. on Jan 26, 2011 at 08:54 PM
    Why would any "EXPERTS" think that the 2007-2008 drought killed the trees in the irrigated area and NOT in the non-irrigated area???? I have been in the irrigation business over 30yrs. I am working with a city about 9 times larger than Jacksonville and they started irrigating effluent water with a 4% solids content mixed with it on seedling trees about 10yrs ago and the trees are now 20-30 feet tall. There has been some die over this period, mostly in the first 2yrs. Most of them are looking great. For Jacksonville I would be looking at chlorine levels, irrigated water temperature, and over watering, (probably over watering is the cause). What kind of soil are the trees in? This is a large factor in how much water and how often they can apply to the soil. The excess water can move nutrients down below root zones, cause the roots to rot, deplete the soil of oxygen and much, much more.
  • by Brian Heath Location: MD on Jan 26, 2011 at 10:17 AM
    I'll bet that somebody is dumping something illegal into the waste stream that is not being removed, or sodium from the pH-treatment caustic is increasing salt content enough to poison the trees.
  • by nochickenplant Location: Elm City on Jan 26, 2011 at 03:21 AM
    You guys need to send this to the Rocky Mount Area. Show the folks who don't think the "Treated" water that the proposed chicken plant will spray on the ground ain't very "treated". Pee on ANYTHING long enough and it WILL DIE!!!!!!!! No Sanderson Farms!!!
  • by Melvin Location: Jacksonville on Jan 25, 2011 at 10:42 PM
    Tree deaths in Jacksonville,hmmm, sounds like they have been listening to those right wing talk shows of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Then again it could be Sarah Palin who is responsible for the deaths of those trees. Sounds silly, but ya got to admit comparing trees to humans, "Jacksonvill investigates tree deaths." This is a bit of a stretch don't ya think? There is no telling what is in humans urine nowadays, no wonder the trees are dying. Sounds like we need additional sewage treatment capacity or further treatment of the affluent before it gets sprayed out.
  • by biologist/ wastewater reclaimation specialist Location: j'ville taxpayer on Jan 25, 2011 at 09:33 PM
    If someone sprayed pee on me year after year, I might croak too.
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