AEP Ohio wants to use a soil chemical injection to slow the growth of some trees in Hillsboro, but Hillsboro’s mayor and a local arborist are opposed to the practice, citing environmental concerns.
Spokespersons for both AEP and the company that administers the treatment said Wednesday the practice increases safety and is even beneficial to trees.
Property owners have a right to object to the treatment, but they are required to opt-out. Without doing so, their trees will be treated. AEP also needs the city’s permission to chemically treat trees located in right-of-ways, permission that Mayor Drew Hastings said Wednesday the city will likely not grant.
“I am inclined not to allow this application, unless AEP can show there’s a benefit to the city and our residents,” said Hastings.
Hastings’ stance is in part based on the opinion of local arborist Richard Cundiff, who told the city that he believes the chemical used to stunt the growth of trees can potentially harm the environment.
On Wednesday, Cundiff told The Times-Gazette that AEP’s effort to artificially retard tree growth “only benefits them” so the company has to do less tree trimming. He said his company never uses chemicals, instead using alternatives such as organic methods when necessary.
Cundiff said homeowners “should have the right to decide what’s put into their property.” He added, “We need to get off this toxic treadmill.”
Hillsboro is not the first city to question the practice of chemical treatment to retard tree growth, nor is it a recent concern. As far back in 2010, the city and the residents of Elkhart, Ind., raised alarms over the issue when Michigan Power undertook a similar endeavor.
Concerns were raised in Elkhart “when a few residents observed crews poking a probe into the ground around trees farther up the street. Inquiring what was going on, they were told Cambistat was being injected into the soil to slow the growth rate of the timber,” the The Elkhart Truth reported. “However, located so close to the St. Joseph River, the water table in that area is high and the drinking wells are only 9 feet below the surface, residents said. They are now concerned the chemical will leach the short distance into their water.”
When Hillsboro officials contacted AEP Ohio with questions, the city received a response from Delores Adams, Chillicothe forester for the company, who explained that AEP uses Edko Vegetation Managers to administer the soil injection.
“Edko is a vendor that works for AEP doing Tree Growth Regulators, which is a soil injection at the base of a large tree that slows the growth and makes the tree leaves grow more compact and they only treat trees which grow quickly into the power lines,” wrote Adams.
“It does not hurt the tree/trees it only helps them to grow more compact and at a slower rate,” she wrote. “Edko makes their own contact with the customer and usually leaves a door card with their phone number so that the customer can make contact with them. Edko can then explain the TGR (tree growth regulators) to the customer and if the customer has a problem with the TGRs then Edko will not treat their tree.”
Adams said Wednesday that AEP’s concern is for safety. She said tree trimming cannot be done often enough to completely control all the danger areas, and she is concerned with the safety of children, particularly in the Shaffer Park area. She said Columbus has had success with the growth-slowing treatment and it has helped control problem areas. She said she welcomed phone calls at 740-774-7044 from anyone with concerns.
Hastings noted that it’s up to property owners to contact the company and raise objections. Otherwise, the treatment will proceed.
The city provided a copy of a door card from AEP and Edko that was left with one Hillsboro resident. It states that the property is scheduled to be the subject of “herbicide work” to control “incompatible woody vegetation,” as well as “tree growth regulation (TGR) work” that “slows tree growth while also producing a healthier, greener tree.”
The door card states, “Please contact us if you wish for an explanation of the work before it begins. Work may begin 72 hours after this notice is placed.” It lists a phone number for Edko, 614-863-5946.
Zack Murray, district manager for Edko, said Wednesday, “I haven’t seen any trees that were killed with this product.” He said that the chemical being used is not Cambistat, which was used in Elkart. He said Edko instead uses ArborLock, made by Davey.
According to a company website, “ArborLock 2SC is a tree growth regulator (TGR) that slows tree canopy growth on average from 40% to 60%. Trees treated with ArborLock 2SC may also have a darker green appearance to the foliage.”
ArborLock’s benefits including reducing biomass from pruning, extending the utility trim cycle, providing a darker green appearance for foliage, requiring less frequent pruning, and enhancing flowering, according to the ArborLock website.
Murray said some Hillsboro neighborhoods are due for treatment in the “near future,” and agreed that homeowners can opt out, as can the city as a whole, although he said “we haven’t had any issues with cities.”
Streets that AEP is working on this year for trimming or treatment, or both, are High Street from Dunlap Road to East Lilley Avenue, East Lilley Avenue itself, South East Street, Hazel Street, the end of West Collins Street coming from South East Street, North East Street by the cemetery to the bowling alley, Sherwood Drive, Diamond Drive and Homestead Avenue.
But the mayor said Wednesday that there is “no upside” to the treatment that he can see.
“The only upside is for AEP,” said Hastings. “The trees grow a lot slower. If we don’t do this, they just have to trim the trees as they have always done.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.