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Canker problem believed in check

Officials believe they have contained citrus canker outbreaks in Ruskin and Sun City Center, spokeswomen for the Florida Department of Agriculture said this week.

The disease, which weakens and disfigures citrus fruit, has infected 12 trees on 11th Avenue SE in Ruskin, and 16 more trees have been exposed.

But so far, state officials have not found any other infected trees within 3,800 feet of the initial canker outbreak, discovered in late December at 2124 11th Ave. SE.

"So far, so good," state agriculture spokeswoman Liz Compton said. "It's all on one street. But they're still looking."

In Sun City Center, where canker was discovered Dec. 8, agriculture authorities planned to have removed at least 282 trees on 128 properties by the end of this week.

The disease did not spread from its initial discovery, just 31 trees on 16 properties. But by law, all trees within 1,900 feet of a cankerous tree must be removed.

As of this week, 20 property owners had not yet signed off on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's request to cut down 40 exposed trees.

"They were mostly refusals to sign the warrants, people that just said they would wait until they were forced to have their trees taken," state agriculture spokeswoman Denise Feiber said.

She said authorities were pursuing a court order to remove those trees and did not anticipate any further complications.

Jay Cridlin can be reached at 661-2442 or