Hank Investigates: What's killing the trees? - WHDH-TV 7News Boston

Hank Investigates: What's killing the trees?

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Look at this Milton front yard---Last summer, there was a tree here. But something killed it. 

Bob Ackley, Gas Safety Inspector

"It's terrible."

Look in front of this Quincy house. Last summer, there *was* a tree there. While the other trees were lush and green - this one wasn't.  And now it's gone too. 

Kevin Coughlin, Quincy City Council President

"I'm frustrated, I'm disappointed and I'm saddened by what I see."

It's easy to see the problem in these summertime photos of these hundreds of trees planted by Massachusetts cities and towns. Something is killing them--and some experts say it's natural gas leaking from pipelines underground.  NOw, replacing those trees will cost taxpayers millions.

Jennifer Dopazo Gilbert, Brookline Town Counsel  

"It's just time for that to be stopped."

The battle to save the trees started last summer, when former pipeline inspector Bob Ackley--using special equipment that checks for the presence of natural gas with dying trees. Arborists have known for years this can happen--even National Grid's own website says "vegetation that appears to be dead or dying" may be a sign of a gas leak.

Again and again, Bob showed us, when his meter registered a gas leak underground--there was a problem with a tree above ground.

Bob Ackley, Gas Safety Inspector

"This has got to stop. The gas goes into the root zone of the trees."

Bob says this *big* tree was near a gas leak, dying, and had to be removed. Now this *little* tree is in its place.  

And look at St Paul Street in Brookline--there should be trees along this sidewalk. Bob says leaking gas killed them, too. They died and had to be cut down.

Jennifer Dopazo Gilbert, Brookline Town Counsel 

"It's a shame, shouldn't happen."

Now, communities like Brookline are fighting back:  filing suit against National Grid saying the gas company needs to pay for the damaging the trees.

Kevin Coughlin Quincy City Council President

"It's absolutely unfair to taxpayers."

The Brookline lawsuit asks for more than a million dollars in damages. Milton: $400,000.Hingham: $170,000.

Saugus: $100,000. Nahant: $$75,00.  Quincy is considering a suit--officials there calculate damages to their trees cost 836 thousand dollars.

Kevin Coughlin Quincy City Council President   

It's a waste, you might as well open this window and throw the money out in the street."

National Grid would not appear on camera, but told us:

*There is no existing evidence to indicate that natural gas causes widespread damage to trees

*The dollar amount cited... is greatly inflated and they say

* In the vast majority of cases, the damages to trees are found to be caused by other factors

Town officials say until the leaks are fixed, the trees will continue to die. National Grid told us they plan to fight the claims in court.  

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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