PENN HILLS (KDKA) — The tops of seventeen 40-year-old Blue Spruce trees in Joanne Robinson’s Penn Hills yard have been lopped off by a tree service subcontractor for Duquesne Light.

The tree trimmers knocked on her door six weeks ago.

“I came out and said, ‘Oh my God! You’re killing all the trees!’ And he went, ‘We have no choice,’” said Robinson.

She says her once stately trees are gone.

Branches snap off easily. It’s not clear if the trees are dying as some branches still have green needles, but a lot are bone dry and bare.

“The landscaper says the trees are dead,” says Robinson, “and they’re cut at the wrong time of the year.”

“Basically, they’re killing off that tree there,” said neighbor Tony Tirio, talking about his 60-year-old oak.

It was also trimmed. He’ll likely take it down now.

“I understand why they have to do that. The power lines are up there, but still it seems like they could have done a better job,” said Tirio.

Electric companies are mandated by the National Electric Safety Code to do the trimming to prevent power outages or even possible fires triggered by tree limbs coming in contact with the lines.

“They’ve got rules for what has to come away from the power lines,” said Doug Oster, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s garden columnist.

That said, Oster believes it does matter when trees are trimmed, and summer is not usually the best time.

“In general, most pruning on trees is done in a dormant state, which means February, March,” Oster says.

Besides that, Blue Spruces usually respond poorly to heavy pruning.

But a Duquesne Light spokesman states that “the trees are not dead, but have dead spots in them”… as confirmed by “two arborists.” Furthermore, he says they have been out to Robinson’s property to show her that “the trees are still alive.”

Best advice – if you can, don’t plant trees in harm’s way.

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