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An email from ORS was sent on June 29 describing utility work that will soon take place near Center Dr. and Wilson Dr. The last time there was work done in this area (~8 years ago?), numerous trees on the north side of Wilson Dr. were killed in a delayed fashion. Since these trees were some distance (maybe 50-100 feet) from the actual work, I suspect they were poisoned by some chemical overflow.

Will there be any precautions or oversight to make sure this doesn’t happen again? What steps are being taken to minimize the impact to the natural landscape in this area? There is a healthy stand of trees just to the east of where the work will be performed and it would be a shame to lose them unnecessarily.

Response from Office of Research Facilities

First of all, thanks for your interest in the preservation of trees on the Bethesda campus. We are proud to house a wide variety of beautiful trees, including numerous Montgomery County Champion Trees. The upcoming construction work on Center Dr. will involve no chemicals. While work is ongoing, erosion and sediment control measures, including a temporary silt fence, will ensure that adjacent downstream sites will not be affected by this development. No dumping of washout water shall occur. Contractors will restore the project area to its original state. Work will be done next to the street and far enough away from the root zones. There should be no foreseeable danger to any trees in the area.

Relative to trees that died in the past, NIH landscape architect Brandon Hartz believes accumulation of winter salt runoff could have been a contributing factor to the trees’ delayed death as tulip poplars are notoriously sensitive to any elevation in soil salinity and the area in question is a low area adjacent to a roadway. Hartz is happy to report that a new generation of red cedar and black locust trees is naturally emerging within the existing oaks and maples and is more resilient to the current environmental conditions of the area than the poplars.  

Over the years, NIH has increased sustainability and environmental stewardship not only to benefit water runoff, trees and other natural areas, but also in a host of disciplines. Please visit the NIH Green Features Guide ( to view how NIH fosters a healthier environment.

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