Gas well noise issue resurfaces at commission meeting
The issue of the noise generated by gas well pump heads resurfaced in the commission chambers and last week's discussion may have calmed the controversy about field development in Carbon County.
The issue, raised by residents in attendance at the commission meeting Wednesday, was nearly diffused from the beginning when commissioners started to discuss the matter before a public hearing on the three well sites proposed near a subdivision southwest of Price.
The issue recently arose due to closer proximity of well development to residences in the county.
The county has a noise restriction on wells pertaining to conditional use permits. The restriction specifies that a well cannot generate more than 55 decibels 1200 feet away from the head.
Last month, personnel from the county's planning office took measurements in the area, near the well heads up to 100 feet away and in the neighborhood near the sites. In all cases, backgroundand ambient noise drowned out the sound of the wells.
Last Wednesday, well developer Conoco-Phillips brought in an environmental noise engineer named Mike Fann to talk about the situation.
"The noise from the wells fall well below any standards I have seen 300 feet away from them," stated Fann. "The sound levels are very low."
Conoco-Phillips has stated that the company will cover low profile wells with sound softening buildings to deflect noise even more.
Fann indicated that he had examined some of the ones already have in place and has made suggestions on how to improve them.
Nick Sampinos, the legal representative for Conoco-Phillips, said the company would comply with Fann's suggestions.
Earlier in the week, commissioners received a letter from residents Jim and Nancy Karpowitz raising concerns on the noise the wells generate.
At the last planning and zoning meeting, Mr. Karpowitz expressed his concerns with the sound and said his neighbors had also complained, particularly in the summer when they a have windows open at night.
At Wednesday's public hearing, no residents commented negatively on the issue. But Mrs. Karpowitz made a presentation.
"I would like to refer to the letter my husband and I wrote to you," she said. "We just feel like these new wells are a major shift in the way gas is being developed in our county."
She said she discussed the matter with the neighbors. Many of the neighbors had entered into agreements even though they had little to gain monetarily because they were purportedly led to believe others had signed.
"Our name was even used in conjunction with signing on, but we did not," claimed Mrs. Karpowitz. "Our concern is about the average citizen and our community."
She asked that low profile rather than "horse-head" pumps be used, that drilling and construction be limited to daylight hours and that roads be paved to reduce dust.
Conoco-Phillips has always had a policy of working only during daylight hours as much as possible and the proposed pumps were the of the low profile type, responded the company's legal representative.
"However, I think the paving of access roads is a bit much," indicated Sampinos. "Our contractor has done a good job of controlling dust per country regulations in the past and we will continue to do so."
A number of residents in attendance at last week's meeting supported the wells. The supporters included some of the 73 royalty owners described as having an interest in the development.
Fann pointed out that, under unique conditions like in certain temperature ranges at certain times, the existing wells might be able to be heard in the neighborhood.
"But those are under very unusual circumstances and, in fact, it would take intended listening to even hear them then," indicated the environmental noise engineer. "That sound would be comparable to have a fly in a room buzzing around, about 15 decibels."
Other issues that were raised during the hearing involved the income from school trust lands where wells were located, the closest a well could be located physically to a residence (the county has a policy of not letting wells be closer than 600 feet to a residence) and reclamation of the sites after the wells have played out.
However, all of the commissioners concerns seemed to be answered adequately and they approved the conditional use permits.
In other business the commission discussed the Carbonville Road project and where it's status lies presently.
"We have had a lot of support and cooperation from those living along Carbonville Road on the proposal," said Commissioner Bill Krompel of the so named Blue Cut reconstruction project. "There are some right-of-ways we need to clear up but it is moving along."
Commission Chairman Mike Milovich stated that he was worried about getting and keeping the funding if the project didn't keep moving along.
It appears that with the grant money to do the preliminary engineering already in place, that those plans and the scope of work will soon be submitted to the Utah Department of Transportation for review.
Krompel also said that when Congressman Jim Matheson was in town earlier in the week he said he would do what he could do to help with funds for roads, particularly for Highway 6 and Nine Mile Canyon.
The commission also approved the sale of a small parcel of land that the county owns to UDOT that is in the path of the new Helper interchange that will be constructed soon.