Public Comment Objects to Attempts to Increase NonCoal Mining Noise Emissions from Airblast Explosions

On April 14, 2021, PANPA filed Public Comments objecting to the noise-related aspects of a Proposed Rule-making by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection related to mining explosions.

Proposed rule-making 51 Pa.B 1519, in part, addresses airblast noise (blasting operations or explosions) in noncoal mining contexts. The proposed rule seeks permission for the DEP to set blasting sound-levels higher than 133dB upon request of the blasting operator.

The full Comments appear below in PDF.  The objections focus on three areas:

  1. The summary conclusion of a "minimal impact" does not meet the Federal Pollution Prevention Act.
  2. Permitting any upward departure from the current 133dB maximum airblast sound-level to an unknown maximum does not a) meet Constitutional requirements and b)  cannot constitute a “minimal impact,” adequate “sound reduction,” or adequate pollution prevention, as an unknown.

  3. Allowing a lessor-owner to merely request of a lessee a signed waiver to the airblast requirements, without the lessor-owner first notifying the lessee of the numerous adverse health effects linked to noise including non-hearing loss effects, does not a) protect public health, b) mitigate pollution, or c) meet Constitutional requirements.

The Public Comment suggests several revisions to the Proposed Rule including:

  1. Allowing LOWER decibel levels but not higher. (This is the current rule.)
  2. Requiring blasters to actively minimize sound levels and noise on properties not owned by the blaster.
  3. Formally allowing affected property owners to directly petition the DEP to reduce sound levels and noise from a blasting operation.
  4. Requiring informed-consent before a mining operator lessor can require a lessee to sign a waiver from the blasting sound-level limits.

32,768 Times "Louder"

For those who work with noise and sound, even the current 133dB limit is astoundingly loud (causing permanent hearing damage and affecting neighboring  properties). By reference the current maximum of 133dB hovers at a shocking 32,768 times "louder" than residential sound-level recommendations.

Assuming adoption of the new Rule, even if the DEP approves a deceptively "minor" 6dB increase to 139dB under the new rule, that doubles the sound emissions and becomes 65,536 times "louder" than recommendations—sadly, these are not math errors.

Furthermore, the current 133dB sound-level limit is measured at the neighboring property including at schools, churches, public buildings, and residences. There is apparently no way for affected property owners to even seek hearing protection from the blasts.

Public Comments PDF