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Fracking noise, obscene radio message concern officials

RADIO, NOISE CONCERNS — Brooke County commissioners enjoyed a lighter moment before discussing recent complaints related to natural gas drilling and an obscene message conveyed through one of the county’s emergency radio channels. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission Tuesday pledged to seek a resolution to recurring noise complaints spurred by natural gas drilling operations and issued a warning to the source of an obscene message delivered through one of the county’s emergency radio channels Friday.

Commission President A.J. Thomas said he and the other commissioners have received many complaints about sounds from natural gas well pads and pumps disturbing residents miles from their locations.

Thomas said the commission has worked with natural gas companies in the past and hopes to do so again to arrive at a solution.

He said he’s concerned they aren’t taking proactive measures, such as sound barriers, to prevent disturbances.

Thomas said the commission has learned hydraulic fracturing near McAdoo Ridge is expected to end in the near future, but he noted drilling will continue in other areas.

In some places, tall sound barriers made with vinyl, polyester and fiberglass and designed to absorb sound, have been built to prevent drilling from violating local noise ordinances.

Compressor stations, built to convey natural gas after pipelines have been installed, have included sound-dampening features.

It’s not clear if such means have been employed at the natural gas well sites in Brooke County.

Thomas noted the county’s noise ordinance doesn’t include commercial activity.

Approved by a previous county commission in 2010, the noise ordinance prohibits the use of non-commercial or non-industrial power tools and landscaping and other yard maintenance equipment that produces sounds that can be measured “at or above the level of 65 decibels through the walls of apartment units within the range of the same building, from another property line, or the street between the hours of 12 a.m. and 8 a.m.”

The ordinance also prohibits loud music that can be heard 50 feet away from its source and loud gatherings, both within the same hours.

Those found to have created a public nuisance under the ordinance may be fined $100 to $500 for the first violation, $150 to $500 for a second violation within the same 12-month period, and $250 for each subsequent violation.

Thomas said the ordinance could be revisited.

“We’re looking at all of our options. Of course, we’ll talk to the companies to try to work this out,” he said.

The commissioners also heard complaints of loud, speeding trucks and trucks from drilling operations traveling without escort trucks.

The smaller trucks are intended to alert oncoming traffic of the trucks, which occupy larger areas of the roadway.

Earlier this year a video was posted on social media of a truck repeatedly veering across the center line of a narrow, local road.

In April and May, there were three accidents in which trucks carrying sand or water overturned near Eldersville Road, Tent Church Road and Coss Lane.

No one was hurt in the accidents.

Brooke County Sheriff Rich Beatty said he monitors regular truck routes for 90 minutes each morning and has cited drivers for speeding but usually, in his presence, it doesn’t occur.

He said he’s observed large trucks crossing center lines but while he was in his personal vehicle.

The commissioners also issued a warning to the person or persons who used the county’s backup emergency radio channel to deliver an obscene message using a computer-altered voice Friday night.

“It was filled with vulgarities and it was directed at our (emergency 911) dispatchers,” said Thomas, who added the West Virginia State Police is investigating and the Federal Communications Commission has been notified.

The commissioners said the act is of particular concern because the channel may be used to call out the county’s fire departments.

Thomas pledged to prosecute those responsible “to the fullest extent of the law. Don’t mess with our radio system.”

In other business, the commission agreed to advertise for a contractor for emergency cleanup efforts following a flood or other natural disaster.

County Commissioner Tim Ennis said the county must employ such a contractor to be eligible for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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