Message from Town Administrator
Given the number of calls my office has received and the comments that can be seen in social media, there are no words that will sooth the concerns of neighbors to properties where blasting takes place. Nonetheless I think it is important to provide some information about blasting with hope that knowledge can create understanding of how the process is guided by law and/or standards. Some will clearly respond with want to condemn the messenger. That goes with the territory here in Administrator world. There is no intent to criticize or defend anyone. This is just my effort to share some of what I am learning.
There have been frequent complaints about not receiving notice of a blast event. This is from the state law regarding notice. “Prior to the commencement of blasting operations, any person, firm, corporation, or other entity that is regulated pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall notify the owner or owners of record of any improved real property within five hundred (500') feet, as measured from the nearest borehole to the closest improved real property, of an intended blast or detonation, excluding road, bridge, utility, and public works construction, no less than twenty-four (24) hours prior to the blast or detonation.” Given the size of the Iron Mine Hill Road solar property and the Pine Hill Quarry off Pound Hill Road where blasting is taking place it is easy to see that “the closest improved real property” is often well beyond the 500 foot distance from the nearest borehole for notice required by law. We have asked for cooperation from the people responsible for these sites and they have willingly accepted duty to provide notice to abutters who call to ask for notice. We will continue to engage in that cooperative spirit with hope that notice can alleviate some concerns. If you are an abutter who is not yet on a site list and would like to be added to the call list for either site, please advise by response to this email. I will ask that we all please respect the cooperation that is afforded by only asking for notice if your home is reasonably close to the site.
The other concern that obviously has come forward is about potential damage to structures and wells. To understand that matter, I have been seeking input from every source I can find to become more informed about the blasting process and the limits that are established to control it. The Iron Mine Hill Road blast on Aug 20 was the event that first drew my attention. Among my first thoughts was need to issue a cease and desist order for public safety in general. By reaching out to an individual from town who had extensive working career experience in this area I learned and confirmed with legal resources that local officials had no ability to stop a blasting program since they are permitted and managed by the state fire marshal. In conversations I was also informed about the 0.5 inches/second vibration limit that is set in the state regulations to protect structures from blasting activity. I later learned that most people could detect the vibration from a blast at a level of only .01 inches/second or fifty times lower than the standard set to protect property. That means people nearby a blast site will always feel the wave from the blast, but it does not mean there will be structural damage. It may not be the way professionals in the industry describe it, but my understanding is the 0.5 in/sec limit is established to protect the “weakest link” in structures. That weakest link is drywall and plaster. My reading and conversation with informed resources results in perspective that if drywall and plaster are protected then concrete elements and wells are also protected because the energy needed to damage them is significantly higher than that needed to protect drywall and plaster. All that said, it has been my recommendation to anyone who has expressed a concern about structural damage to take abundant photos of their home to document current conditions. Do not wait to observe a crack and then take photos. And of course, as explained previously the state fire marshal’s office is the place to file a damage claim.
Finally, the information made available to the town from the state fire marshal’s office and the blaster indicates that all blasts to date at the Iron Mine Hill Road site have been observed to be compliant with the state limits. As many may know we have Pare Engineering overseeing that project for the town. Given the concern that has been expressed about blasting at that site, we have arranged for Pare Corporation to engage a subconsultant with specific expertise in blast design and monitoring. That entity will be providing additional observation of the methods used and perhaps may have suggestions to reduce the effects that are detected by neighbors.
For anyone who wants more information about this entire process I have also found the following websites where information is available that may be of interest.
I hope this information helps many to understand how the blasting process is being monitored and controlled with interest to protect public safety, property and water supplies while the construction work or quarrying activity that has been permitted is allowed to continue.