Although Noelle Badertscher is a historian—not an environmentalist—she considered the trees outside of her home on Delaware Avenue to be gorgeous ambassadors of the past.
But today, those same trees now stand with dropped leaves, bare and dead.
Badertscher and her neighbors said the trees began to die after Peoples Natural Gas completed line maintenance earlier this month—cutting the sidewalk in half and trenching through the trees’ roots.
Now, although it’s the middle of summer, Delaware Avenue looks like a street in autumn, littered with fallen leaves.
“They are what I loved about this street," Badertscher said. "I’m heartsick that they so carelessly plowed through them. They cut through them like a hot knife through butter.”
The neighbors said they didn't receive notice that construction would occur the week of June 11 on their road. They claim it wasn’t until they saw the Peoples Natural Gas trucks and heard the jack hammer pound that they knew anything was happening at all.
“It’s been very curious to us—this lack of communication. I don’t remember getting a thing from the borough or the gas company,” said Andy Munster, who has lived on Delaware for more than 30 years.
Mayor Deneen Swartzwelder said she did not feel comfortable making an official statement on behalf of the borough, but did express regret for the residents and said she hopes the gas company will fix the situation.
Barry Kukovich, corporate spokesperson for Peoples Natural Gas, said trees all over western Pennsylvania are losing leaves due to drought—and these trees are no exception.
"I appreciate their concern but when you have leaves falling all over Western PA, I doubt it has anything to do with our gas lines," said Kukovich.
Kukovich said if concerned residents call the customer service center to complain, the gas company would be happy to come out and assess the situation.
Mark Demkee, who lives in the neighborhood, is more concerned about the hazard that the dying trees pose to the community. With the speed the leaves shed, he worries that branches could start snapping off, which could damage property or hurt residents.
Demkee said he contacted the borough and Peoples Natural Gas to complain about the damaged trees.
"They’re in the dark as much as we have been," he said, adding that the gas company said they would get back to him.
Complaints aside, the neighbors want to work with the borough to make things right and get back to life on their quiet street.
“We need an appropriate replacement before they lay a sidewalk. That needs to be priority," Badertscher said. "The borough of Swissvale may own the actual trees, but their history and beauty belong to all of us."