Fracking: Noise Pollution

“Now comes the second phase. The dreadful noise generated by a nearby large compressor station. Noise that was so loud that our dog was too frightened to go outside to do his business without a lot of coaxing. Noise that sounds like a jet plane circling over your house for 24 hours a day. Noise that is constant. Noise that drives people to the breaking point. My neighbor called the sheriff, state officials and even the governor and was told nothing could be done about the noise. Like I said, the noise drives people to the breaking point, and my neighbor fired 17 rifle shots toward the station.”
–Excerpted from CBM Destroys Retirement Dream.

What the BLM says now…

  • Under “Conventional Well/Pads, it states “Operation frequency varies from field to field, but the wells generate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.” (pg. 46) Note that no decible level, of compressors, trucks, etc, is mentioned.
  • Under “Hydraulic Fractured Well/Pads”, it discusses a single day of hydraulic fracturing pumping activities typically producing sound of approximately 107 decibels. Noise typically attenuates to 80 to 90 decibels at the edge of the site (California Department of Conservation 2015). (pg. 46)  Hydraulic fracturing is considered part of the “well completion” phase. The process typically takes 1 to 2 days. (CA Dept. of Conservation 2015)
  • We already sent a note to the BLM that the noise factor of their “Conventional” vs. “Hydraulic” sections was not a straight across comparison. There is a noise level for drilling, which is not called out anywhere, and for compressor stations, and for trucks and for construction activities. Depending on the depth of the formation, some wells may take less than 24 hours to drill, while some well in deeper formation may take more than 60 days to drill (Kern County 2015) BLM data indicate that most of the wells are typically in shallow formations where little site preparation is necessary and the drilling normally only takes 2-4 days. (Appendix A, 2012 Final EIS)
  • Here’s a couple of lists of some of the missing decibel readings from different distances.

la plata noise
The BLM published these noise statistics for point sources 50′ away (just not in this report):

  • Well drilling – 83 dBA
  • Pump jack operations – 82 dBA
  • Water injection facilities – 71 dBA
  • Gas compressor facilities – 89 dBA

What we say…and said already…

Are you kidding?: We had noted several weeks ago that under “Noise impacts per pad”, a single day of hydraulic fracturing pumping activities typically produced sound of approximately 107 decibels and that noise typically attenuates to 80 to 90 decibels at the edge of the site (California Department of Conservation 2015). At the time, there were descriptions in the EIS of allowing wells within 200′ of occupied dwellings, and one option allowed for even closer. So we wrote to the BLM to ask them if they were serious about allowing fracking operations that close to homes…That piece of information, originally described on “alternative B-E, page 29” is now missing. Which is good, because that would have put a family in immediate danger of hearing damage. (Handy chart here.)

Jet take-off (at 305 meters), use of outboard motor, power lawn mower, motorcycle, farm tractor, jackhammer, garbage truck.   Boeing 707 or DC-8 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (106 dB); jet flyover at 1000 feet (103 dB); Bell J-2A helicopter at 100 ft (100 dB). 100 8 times as loud as 70 dB.  Serious damage possible in 8 hr exposure
Boeing 737 or DC-9 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (97 dB); power mower (96 dB); motorcycle at 25 ft (90 dB).  Newspaper press (97 dB).


4 times as loud as 70 dB.  Likely damage 8 hr exp
Garbage disposal, dishwasher, average factory, freight train (at 15 meters).  Car wash at 20 ft (89 dB); propeller plane flyover at 1000 ft (88 dB); diesel truck 40 mph at 50 ft (84 dB); diesel train at 45 mph at 100 ft (83 dB).  Food blender (88 dB); milling machine (85 dB); garbage disposal (80 dB). 80 2 times as loud as 70 dB.  Possible damage in 8 h exposure.

No standards listed: However, they haven’t replaced their potential lawsuit with any positive minimum standards in respect to nearby human habitation or the habitat of protected species. We agree with this article that mitigation must be provided to provide a night time ambient noise of 35-50, depending on the the original noise level of the area, and no more than 55 dBA during the day near residential zones, measured at the edges of a property boundary or refuge area.

Health impacts for humans There is scientific evidence that environmental noise has negative health impacts. A comprehensive review of all available data and measurements of noise levels at oil and gas operations compared the information to various health-based standards, such as those from the World Health Organization. The researchers concluded that modern oil and gas development can cause noise at levels that increase both short- and long-term health risks, including stress, sleep disturbance and deprivation, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, depression, birth complications and cognitive impairment in children and contribute to the development or aggravate heart and circulatory diseases disease. Prolonged periods of exposure to 65 dBA can cause mental and bodily fatigue, permanent hearing damage; and transform a person’s initial annoyance into more extreme emotional responses and behavior as well. Noise exposure, like other health threats, may disproportionately impact vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses.

Health impacts for animals: Noise has also been documented to have negative physiological and reproductive effects on birds and other wildlife and interfere with their ability to communicate. It may even cause their temporary or permanent displacement from particular areas; if nests and dens are abandoned, populations could decline. Chronic and frequent noise interferes with animals’ abilities to detect important sounds, whereas intermittent and unpredictable noise is often perceived as a threat. Importantly, these effects can lead to fitness costs, either directly or indirectly.