Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Group Hires Lawyer over Dying Trees

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Group Hires Lawyer over Dying Trees

Article excerpt

A handful of Kirkwood residents has been observing dying trees, leaves and grass in their back yards for the past several months.

Ed Sokoloski and seven other homeowners think the culprit is a herbicide that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District sprayed in May in a drainage ditch that runs behind their houses.

The neighbors suspect that the herbicide was not meant for use in residential areas. They recently hired an attorney to help prove their claim.

While trees in Sokoloski's front yard are faring well, those in his back yard and his neighbors' back yards on Maeville and Danworth courts are dying rapidly.

"The leaves are dripping off those maple trees, and that pine over there is completely brown," said Sokoloski, counting off those and other dead or dying plants.

Turning to his own yard, Sokoloski noted with anger that a 60-foot pin oak about 35 feet away from the ditch is showing signs that it, too, is suffering.

"I've built a patio, waterfall and fish pond around that tree. It's a focal point. Also, my wife raises orchids and relies on the shade from that tree for her plants. I'm not about to take that tree down unless I have to. Why should I pay out-of-pocket to replace a tree that died unnaturally?"

Pat Haggerty, a lawyer with Gray and Ritter, says his clients are concerned about receiving compensation for damages from MSD, as well as about stopping the use of the herbicide in residential areas.

"They have seen dramatic changes in plant life in their back yards," Haggerty said. "This is distressing to these homeowners. I don't think we'll know this fall or winter how bad the damage really is. That could take at a least a year."

Sokoloski said that this was the first time MSD had sprayed the culvert. He said crews previously had mowed and cut the overgrown brush.

"We were never notified that they would spray," Sokoloski said. …

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