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Thousands Of Beetle-Infested Trees Cut Down In Suffolk County

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – There's tree trouble on Long Island's east end.

Thousands have been cut down, ravaged by the invasive southern pine beetle. What's worse, homeowners are now paying for it.

Contractors hired by the Town of East Hampton are working overtime to cut down more than 7,000 trees just discovered to be infested by the insect.

"We flagged every single infested tree that we had found, and we had found that it had more than doubled in 12 days," said environmental analyst Andrew Drake.

The alarming increase led to an emergency being declared.

From its name, it's obvious the destructive southern pine beetle is not native to New York. But two years ago, it hit Fire Island and then later Bethpage State Park. State environmental officials ordered that all infested trees be destroyed to stop the beetle's spread.

You can tell when a tree has been infested by the tell-tale sap the tree pushes out in a futile effort to kill the pest.

Thousands of felled trees have outraged the owners of price Hampton homes.

"I'm losing property value on top of this. Who's going to want to buy a property with thousands of dead trees on it?" James Smith said.

Smith said he lost nearly 2,000 trees and it will cost him thousands to pay contractors to haul them away.

That's a bill some elderly retirees say they can't handle.

"That I can't afford. I live on Social Security," one man said.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell says $150,000 in tax money is being spent cutting down the trees, but that's as far as he can go helping out homeowners.

"I think there's a limit to the use of public funds on private property," he said.

The supervisor says the town will waive its disposal fee, but meanwhile the mass tree cutting will go on until the pine beetle threat passes.

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