Mining in Barboursville: NoiseThe proposed mining operation would produce noise at nearby residences well above the 55dB level identified by EPA as sufficient to protect public health and welfare in residential areas. The nearest residents would experience noise levels of more than 74dB. Presumably, General Shale's workers would be required to wear appropriate hearing protection while on the job, but the residents cannot be asked to do so in their yards.
Because the site is small and closely surrounded by homes, it is difficult to imagine how adequate sound abatement could be achieved. The EPA says that a single scraper pan, such as General Shale would use at this site, produces noise levels of 88dB at 50 feet. At the distance of the nearest homes, this would only be attenuated to 74dB. According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, 60 meters of dense vegetation can diminish noise by 10dB. Reducing noise from 74dB to 54dB would require 120 meters (about 400 feet) of trees around the entire perimeter of the property. Another approach to sound abatement would be the use of barriers, but according to the Federal Highway Administration document ``Highway Traffic Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy and Guidance'', achieving the necessary 20dB attenuation with barriers is ``nearly impossible''.
Note that it would not be sufficient to provide noise abatement only at sections of the perimeter where houses are nearest. Sound levels above 55dB at the property line would deprive residents of the use and enjoyment of their property. We cannot prescribe where children will play, or where future homes will be built. An impact evaluation done by Anderson & Associates for Tenaska's new power plant in Fluvanna County recommends that noise during regular plant operating hours be limited to ``50dB at the property line''. In arriving at this recommendation, Anderson & Associates cites sound levels for many common sources of noise:
Note also that it would not be permissible to begin mining before plantings are mature. The necessary trees could take 10 to 15 years to reach maturity, and the health and welfare of residents would be endangered during this time.
Additional noise concerns affect the side of the property bordered by Route 738. This is a narrow, winding, 16-foot-wide road lined with residences. General Shale proposes to haul up to 16,200 dump truck loads of material per year along this road. This would result in greatly increased highway noise, and an additional set of noise abatement problems.
Finally, note that the EPA noise recommendations given above are lower levels than those given by OSHA or NIOSH for workers. One reason for this is that the EPA levels apply to residential areas, not workplaces. The lower EPA levels reflect the fact that, unlike workplace noise, noise in residential areas affects children, the elderly and the infirm. Residential areas should also offer some respite from the noise of the workplace. One of the residents of Route 738 had her third heart attack after she spoke at the August 29 DMME hearing. Someone with her health problems wouldn't be allowed to work at a shale mine, even if she wanted to. Yet General Shale is asking her to endure the noise of dump trucks passing constantly, every five minutes, eleven hours a day, five days a week.