Tributes to so-called "ghost trees" are popping up in Brookline, Massachusetts.
"Rest in peace" signs signal where advocates say trees have been killed due to gas leaks in a campaign they hope raises awareness.
The tree tagging mission was launched by a group called Mothers out Front over the weekend. The group claims there are more than 400 sites in Brookline where a tree has been killed or damaged by the underground leaks.
"Since we have over 400 trees, we wanted to find a way to memorialize those trees that have been lost," member Kathleen Scanlon said, "and really become megaphones to alert people about this serious problem."
The locations of their signs are based off of a lawsuit Brookline filed against National Grid over tree loss that was settled. Advocates claim Brookline has lost over $1 million worth of trees to the leaks in a problem they say crosses town lines.
Nathan Phillips, a plant physiologist and professor at Boston University, said he regularly finds traces of gas in the soil near where he lives in Newton. Similar signs hoping to raise awareness about the impact of gas leaks in Newton have gone up there, too.
"There are hundreds of trees affected by gas leaks," Phillips said. "Gas leaks kill trees and we have the ability to save them, so we need to start taking care of them and save them."
The group in Brookline is urging the community to contact National Grid, who they say is to blame for the leaks that have not been fixed.
In response to the ghost tree campaign, National Grid released the following statement:
"Massachusetts is home to the second-oldest gas distribution system in the country (after Baltimore.) Like much of New England’s energy infrastructure, Massachusetts gas mains are aging and in need of repair and replacement. National Grid is committed to gas main replacement – the most effective way of eliminating all leaks. While we must prioritize hazardous leaks first, we have also explored the best ways of eliminating the largest non-hazardous leaks. We’re proud of our collaboration with groups such as Mothers Out Front on this important issue and agree that, when at all possible, the grade 3 (non-hazardous) leaks fixed outside of main replacement should be those that emit the most methane. We’re incorporating learnings from the results of a pilot study with Mothers Out Front and HEET into our gas repair plans—in the least disruptive manner possible that keeps our service affordable for all of our customers and reduces environmental impacts."