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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Come on Feel the Noise

Zee zee zee zum zum buzz buzz buzz buzz in the eardrum ~Wire

Friends, fracking is well, its loud. To get an idea of how loud visit this link: Hollenbeck Well Site Susquehannah County Pennsylvania

On July 12, 2013, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) interns Colleen Brophy and Franklin Wolfe made a presentation on noise, dust odor, and light to the Local Government Regulation Study Group. Link to audio here: Local Government Regulation Study Group July 12, 2013. The presentation is in part one.

Hydraulic fracturing operations are extremely noisy; equipment, heavy trucks on the site, drilling and other activities will result in “frequent to continuous noise.”  Additionally, the almost non-stop noise from heavy trucks (approximately 90dBA per truck passing by) will contribute to the noise level in affected communities. Drilling and flaring will generate the loudest sounds. Drilling activities can produce around 115 decibels (dBA) at the well pad. This is louder than a jackhammer or a helicopter. Drilling operations can go on up to two months; sometimes 24 hours a day.  The noise could exceed 55 dBA as far as 1800-3500 feet away. [1] Exposure to 85 decibels for over 8 hours at a time can cause hearing loss. [2]
Besides its effect on hearing, exposure to loud and continuous noise can “induce hearing impairment, hypertension and ischemic heart disease, annoyance, sleep disturbance, and decreased school performance.”[3]

Here are some highlights from the presentation. Link here Noise Abatement, Odors and Dust, Lighting:

  • Natural gas development involves significant amounts of noise, especially during the initial phases of well pad construction, drilling, hydraulic fracturing and site reclamation. These activities typically last two or three months per well pad, and involve heavy machinery, large trucks and generators that could impact nearby communities.
  • Any increase in decibels is actually experienced 10 times louder. For an example a 5 decibel increase is actually 50 times louder
  • Any noise greater than 75 decibels (db) is unacceptable in a residential area according to HUD guidelines
  • Composite estimates are from distance of 50-2000 feet from the operation (it was not clear in the audio I was listening to exactly where the starting point was, levels listed below will be at 50 and 2000 feet) .
    • Access road construction: 89-57 db
    • Well pad construction: 84-52 db
    • Horizontal air well drilling: 76-44 db
    • Hydraulic fracturing
      • Diesel pumper trucks (op1):99-67
      • Diesel pumper trucks (op2): 104-72
  • Some parts of the process can go on for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
This and other information is being considered to establish rules for setbacks, which according to current thinking among Commissioners, will likely be around 100 feet. When talking about the setbacks,study group Chair Charles Taylor said: "I think that's something we gotta look at as you look at Don Kovasckitz' model (see an earlier blog post), you've stifle the opportunity for industry to participate." Taylor went on to say that the 100 ft. number was not set in stone, but it was a place to start. Commissioner Charles Holbrook chimed in, "Right. I think its really important to do that." 

As usual, not much care and concern expressed for the neighbors of these operations, all the warm fuzzies are saved for the industry. 

From where I sit, we're going to need a lot of earplugs.

[1] “Oil and Gas Development Impacts.” Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse. Accessed 4 June 2013.
[2] Goines, Lisa RN, Hagler, Louis MD. “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague.” Southern Medical Journal. 2007; 100 (3): 287-294.  Accessed 4 June 2013.
[3] Passchier-Vermeer, W. Passchier, W.F. “Noise Exposure and Public Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Accessed 4 June 2013.A presentation on noise, odor and dust given by interns with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified and estimated just how loud the process is.

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