ST. LOUIS COUNTY - 5 on Your Side went to bat Thursday for a south St. Louis County homeowner who says his tree is now tipping towards his house because of Ameren Missouri tree trimmers.
Paul Discher claims the tree cutters took off the back branches closest to the power lines and when that happened, his white oak started tilting towards his home.
"We know they are protecting their wires but in the process of protecting the wires they may be creating a hazard for somebody else," said Discher.
He has dealt with storm damage before. He showed us storm aftermath pictures from 2006. When his insurance company wouldn't pay, he forked out several hundred dollars to clear his yard. So Discher wants to know if Ameren will pay, if the tree they just clipped tumbles over.
"I've never had a situation where one of the trees that was trimmed has fallen over. We are trimming the growth around the wires. We are not trimming the roots or interfering with the roots and really, the roots are what holds up the tree," said Rick Schenk, Ameren Missouri's manger of vegetation.
Ameren began an aggressive tree trimming operation after the 2006 and 2007 storms left thousands of people in the dark for days. Schenk says the company follows national pruning guidelines and maintains it is done for the safety of their linemen and the homeowner's safety as well.
So who is liable? Ultimately the tree belongs to the customer. But, Ameren did respond to 5 on Your Side and will send a supervisor to look at Discher's tree and determine if something more needs to be done.
5 on Your Side asked one of the chief arborists from the Missouri Botanical Garden to independently verify what Ameren was saying.
"Unless the root system was compromised, the tree would not fall," said Ben Chu.
Chu said in the future, storms could damage the remaining limbs, but that could happen regardless of any action by Ameren
Ameren provided the following data:
Each year, Ameren Missouri invests half a billion dollars to operate and maintain the power grid. This includes infrastructure improvements to equipment like poles, wires and substations. It also includes additions to the grid, and replacing old equipment. Ameren Missouri's electric service reliability has improved 44 percent since 2006.
Ameren Missouri achieved a milestone last year – in 2013 we reached the highest level of service reliability in the company's history. On average, Ameren Missouri customers experience fewer than one outage a year.