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.