NASHVILLE - The Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive beetle that destroys ash trees, has been found in Hamilton County.
And that has worried state officials who have slapped a quarantine that affects the movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, ash timber and other material that can help spread the destructive Asian pest.
The recent discovery, confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is particular concerning, state officials say, because it is not adjacent to already quarantined areas in East Tennessee.
At least a dozen trees adjacent to Chattanooga rail lines and an Emerald Ash Borer trap located in a park near the rail hub tested positive for the insect, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
"While it's not possible to say with absolute confidence at this time where the origin of the infestation began in Chattanooga, detection surveys indicates it is located near a rail hub," Gray Haun, the state Agriculture Department's Plant Certification Administrator said in a news release. "EAB travels on firewood and unprocessed ash materials, so it's likely wood products already infested with the insect arrived near that vicinity."
The Asian exotic beetle was first discovered in Tennessee in 2010 at a truck stop along I-40 in Knox County.
Besides Knox, 17 other counties in Tennessee, including Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Greene, Grainger, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Loudon, Monroe, Roane, Sevier, Smith, and Union counties, are under state and federal quarantines.
Now, Hamilton County is being added to the list.