Watch Live: CBS Sports presents (2) LSU vs. Mississippi State

Heard of Paclobutrazol? Huntsville Utilities has been applying it to your trees for a while now

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Paclobutrazol is the active ingredient in Cambistat - a growth regulator that has been used by utility companies all over the country on millions of trees since 2009. The chemical gently slows tree growth, preventing branches from interfering with power lines.

Cambistat helps refocus a tree's energies from canopy growth to healthy, fibrous root production, defense chemicals and stored energy.

Huntsville Utilities began the program in 2006 as a part of their electric line clearing program, which includes tree trimming.

But south Huntsville resident Rhonda Brewster says she wasn't aware and was appalled Monday to learn crews had come into her yard and injected growth regulating chemicals around the two large Pin Oaks flanking her driveway.

"Nobody consulted me about this," she says.

Monday Brewster tracked down the Edko contractors who put out the tree growth regulator. They gave her the number of a Huntsville Utilities supervisor.

"He said, 'well, you were supposed to have gotten a card or something,' and I didn't get a card; I didn't get a letter, I didn't get anybody. No one asked for permission and no one left me a notice of any sort," Brewster claims.

Tree growth regulator (TGR) is meant to prevent over growth into power lines and ultimately to fend off outages.

"You have certain varieties of trees that grow rather quickly and the fewer times we have to trim those trees, it's a cost savings for the company and for our customers," Huntsville Utilities Spokesman Joe Gehrdes explains.

She must have been one of the ones who slipped through the cracks because according to Gehrdes, as far as a month ahead of any work, customers get an initial notice, then an invitation to attend and ask questions at a community meeting about tree management, a second post card notice, then door hanger notices from the utility company and from vegetation crews.

"We should be reaching out to the customer between 3 and 4 times before any work actually gets done."

"I just wish they would have asked me," Brewster says.

Her main question: can the customer say 'no thanks' to tree growth regulator?

"It depends on the situation," says Gehrdes. "There are certain trees that we have to trim. For our part, this is an outage management and reliability issue. People love their trees, and we know that. And we certainly don't want to cause a problem."

If a customer is given notice that a tree must come down completely, then they have some options Gehrdes explains. Huntsville utilities will even offer a replacement tree, provided, of course, customers don't plant the tree near power lines.

It should be noted that a widely used growth regulator, Cambistat, is approved for use by the EPA and contracting crews must be properly licensed to apply it.





  • Nuclear Mike

    HSV Utilities came into my backyard to “clear” the ROW and cut every tree & bush down to the ground via their hired contractor.

    HSV Utilities had to pay me a settlement and anyone who has had their trees sprayed should be entitled to a cash settlement too.

  • Harry Chickpea

    Back when getting electricity was a privilege, we pretty much figured out that trees under the power lines wasn’t very smart if we wanted reliable power and wanted to avoid people mucking up the yard trimming. I won’t say that people today are less intelligent, but something is going on.

  • Rhonda B

    Here’s what was left out of the story: Are they really allowed to come 15 feet onto my property to apply chemicals into my soil? This is well out of the realm of the “right of way.” My trees aren’t even affecting the power lines, which are on the other side of the street. These trees are 50 years old and to me, they are irreplaceable. In my opinion, Huntsville Utilities did not make a good attempt to notify customers. They can blame it on their contractor, but ultimately, they are responsible. And by the way, if you have blue dots spray-painted on your trees, I would advise covering them up if you don’t want your trees sprayed.

  • Thunderball

    Huntsville Utilities is stuck in the past and not planning smartly to bury many overhead wires. Sure it costs money, but ‘progressive’ cities bury most of their overhead wiring. Long term savings and benefits come from reduced tree trimming, herbicide spraying, reduced power outages and a more beautiful landscape.

  • Country Boy

    So we inhibit canopy growth and encourage root growth. Am I the only one seeing a problem with that? There are far more utilities underground these days than above. Not to mention the water lines and sewer lines, but of course those issues are the owner’s responsibility. And what about concrete driveways, sidewalks, etc. that root overgrowth destroys? So, keep it cheap for HU and defer any costs to the property owner. Typical Huntsville mentality…

  • Sam Spade

    I have been living in the same house for 25 years and have NEVER gotten any notice of any kind from Hsv Utilities about this……….

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.