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 PHILADELPHIA, July 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) (NYSE: PE), in cooperation with Cheltenham Township, has begun a major initiative to improve electric service reliability in the Elkins Park and Melrose Park communities.
 These areas have lost power on numerous occasions during the past year, primarily caused by trees interfering with electric lines in the heavily-wooded areas.
 As a result, PECO has identified where immediately troublesome street tree conditions exist and, during the past two weeks, began emergency tree pruning in certain spots along the nearly 19-mile circuit, which serves electricity to 1,500 customers in the two neighborhoods.
 The area is bounded by Elkins Avenue to the north, Cheltenham Avenue to the south, New Second Street to the east, and West Avenue to the west.
 As part of an agreement with the township, PECO foresters will prepare an inventory of street trees growing under or adjacent to power lines and review recommendations with township officials regarding removal of street trees deemed potentially hazardous due to structural weaknesses.
 After township approval of each street tree candidate for removal, individual property owners will be contacted to solicit their cooperation for the removal. Township authorization is only required for street trees within the municipal right of way.
 Tom Stapleford, PECO general manager, Montgomery County, said the agreement forged between PECO and Cheltenham Township will address the primary cause of the power outages, improve electric service, and relieve some potentially hazardous conditions in the community.
 Associated with this tree work, PECO's engineering staff is evaluating other causes of service interruptions to determine subsequent action.
 PECO and the township will be reviewing tree conditions to limit, whenever possible, the number of street trees that are removed.
 PECO and the township also are working out details of a limited tree replacement program. Trees planted under this arrangement will be species appropriate as street trees that will not mature to a height near or above the aerial utility wires and will not require regular trimming.
 Residents who have street trees removed from their property are interested in replacement trees should contact Cheltenham Township Public Information Officer Nancy K. Gibson at 887-1000, ext. 230. PECO also has made available information on proper tree pruning, tree selection, planting, and tree care for residents available through the township or calling the telephone number on customer bills.
 PECO said, on eight occasions during the past year, the entire Elkins Park/Melrose Park circuit lost service. The Company found that on five of those occasions, the power outage was caused by trees. On other occasions, only a small portion of the circuit was interrupted. In all, nearly 60 percent of all of the service interruptions were tree related.
 Steve Bowen, PECO's Montgomery County Division forester, said the partnership with the township is a new, positive step toward providing safe and reliable electric service, while addressing the immediate and long-term concerns of the community.
 During a walking survey of the neighborhoods, Bowen said numerous street trees were found to have serious structural weaknesses, damaged and diseased root systems, with apparent broken limbs. A large number of mature trees were found to be growing into and around the electric facilities. In some cases, tree limbs were leaning heavily over or toward energized wires.
 Bowen added many street trees are struggling to survive in a narrow, confined area between the roadway and sidewalk. The trees -- in some instances, although appearing healthy -- indicate many symptoms of declining health, he said.
 "Most importantly, as we begin this work, we are identifying trees that present an immediate safety hazard, a concern for PECO and a public liability," Bowen said. "Proper pruning, according to accepted arboriculture methods, will be performed so the health of the street trees will be preserved."
 -0- 7/30/93
 /CONTACT: Michael Wood of Philadelphia Electric, 215-841-4125/

CO: Philadelphia Electric Company ST: Pennsylvania IN: UTI SU:

MK -- PH005 -- 7640 07/30/93 09:41 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 30, 1993

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