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Cause of dying trees still inconclusive

The cause behind the dying trees bordering a property adjacent to Drake Lake is still unknown. According to the January issue of The New Falcon Herald, Dan Kibler, owner of the property, said the evergreen trees along his front property line on Mallard Drive have been dying in sequence.Kibler said magnesium chloride treatment El Paso County used to control dust caused the problem, according to the article. He concluded that the magnesium chloride, applied in late June 2015, had mixed with the water from the July 9 heavy rainstorm, which then pooled on various parts of the property. The areas where the water pooled are the places where the trees are drying off first, Kibler said in the article.Andre Brackin, county engineer with the EPC public services department, said the levels of magnesium chloride in the soil from the twice-yearly treatments would not be enough to affect the tree roots. ìWe would have to do applications every week all year long and have enough rain to have it soak into the roots,î Brackin said. ìThe more likely cause is the acidity of the soil itself.îTom Flynn, senior arborist with Front Range Arborists in Colorado Springs, said he has a degree in horticulture with 30 years of experience, 22 of them spent working in Colorado Springs. In his opinion, Flynn said if rain from 100 square feet of road covered with magnesium chloride is concentrated into a 10-square-foot area, it would definitely affect vegetation.Flynn had gone to Kiblerís property and tried to determine the cause, going as far as taking cuttings from some of the dying trees and sending them to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, for testing, he said. ìIt is very rare that I cannot pinpoint the problem; and, this time, I could not,î Flynn said. ìI sent cuttings to CSU to get their opinion, and their results were inconclusive. There is potential for the magnesium chloride to be the culprit, but it is really hard to say if you are trying to pinpoint fault.îAccording to a study conducted in 2004 by CSU titled, ìEnvironmental Effects of Magnesium Chloride-Based Dust Suppression Products on Roadside Soils, Vegetation and Stream Water Chemistry,î 370 kilometers of vegetative areas along both magnesium-chloride-treated and non-treated dirt roads in Grand and Larimer counties in Colorado were studied.ìThe majority (72.3 to 79.3 percent) of roadside vegetation surveyed was considered healthy,î the study states. Severely damaged vegetation, with more than 50 percent of the total plant affected, was observed in 6.4 to 11.4 percent of the surveyed area.Overall, the roads treated with magnesium chloride had a larger proportion of severely damaged vegetation than along non-treated roads, according to the study. However, the study states that more extensive research is needed.Brackin said, in general, it is difficult to keep trees alive on the eastern plains, and Kiblerís complaint is the only one he has received in the area.Kibler did not return any of the NFHís phone calls for further comments.

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