By LeAnn R. Ralph
TOWN OF HOWARD — A representative for EOG Resources says that blasting at the S&S frac sand mine cannot possibly be strong enough to damage Edward Dachel’s house.
“S&S mine property damage from blasting” was one of the agenda items for the Howard Town Board at the May 6 meeting.
The S&S mine, on property owned by Robert Schindler and Jeff Sikora, both of Colfax, is located on county Highway B in the Town of Howard.
Edward Dachel’s property is located across the road from the mine site.
Dachel alleges that blasting from the mine has caused damage to his property, including broken canning jars and a canner, a broken weld on the water heater pipe, broken ceramic rods that are part of the furnace igniter system, cracks in the basement floor and walls, cracks in a chimney and cracks in the garage floor.
Tom Maul, mine supervisor with EOG Resources, says that it is not possible for blasting to cause any damage at Dachel’s property.
Maul said he started working at the S&S mine in March of 2011, that Ayres Associates completed a pre-blast survey of Dachel’s property in June of 2011 and that blasting started at the mine in October of 2011.
Earth moving equipment began working at the S&S mine site in December of 2010, and within one week, Dachel had complained that the earth-moving operations were damaging his house, Maul said.
In November of 2011, Maul said that he and representatives for Ayres were in Dachel’s living room when blasting occurred and then had taken a complete set of photographs of the property.
In August of 2013, Dachel requested that a third inspection be conducted, and the house and outbuildings were videotaped, Maul said.
Blasting has occurred 80 times at the S&S mine, and the strongest blasts were less than one-third of what could damage a house, he said.
Dachel told the town board he had observed 15 different people setting the seismograph on his property this winter and wondered how much training they had received for setting a monitor.
Maul said it was not possible for 15 different people to set the monitor, that there were not 15 different people setting the monitor, and that the actual number of people was far fewer than 15.
“There is no blasting that could be possibly strong enough to damage (Edward Dachel’s) house,” Maul said, noting that the company in charge of setting the blasts is a competent and experienced company.
Dachel wondered if there had been other complaints related to the blasting.
“Two,” Maul replied.
“I am confident we are not damaging Ed Dachel’s home and that we are in compliance with (the Town of Howard’s) blasting ordinance,” he said.
Tom Zwiefelhofer, town board supervisor, said the township’s blasting ordinance requires that a property owner receive a copy of the pre-blast report within 48 hours of making the request.
Dachel says he has asked for a copy of the survey several times but that he has never received it, Zwiefelhofer said.
Maul said he had not heard any of the conversations pertaining to requests for a pre-blast report and that it was “all hearsay.”
Maul used the word “hearsay” several times in reference to what Dachel believes is damage to his property from the blasting.
Hearsay is defined as a rumor or gossip but does not pertain to what someone believes to be true based on his or her experience.
The mine operator needs to comply with what the town board has asked about the pre-blast survey, Maul said, noting that he had seen the request for information last August, although it was not clear what information was being requested.
Maul pointed out several times that he is not responsible for anything that had occurred at the S&S mine before he was employed there in March of 2011.
Vernon Schindler, chair of the Town of Howard, wondered about putting the seismograph probe into the ground for a more accurate reading.
“Nobody does that,” Maul said.
According to the “Field Practice Guidelines for Blasting Seismographs” from the International Society of Explosives Engineers, depending upon the expected strength of the blast, the geophone should be placed on the ground, buried, spiked or attached.
When burial or attachment methods are used, a hole should be excavated that is no less than the three times the height of the sensor, and the sensor should be spiked to the bottom of the hole.
The sensor also can be attached to the foundation of a structure if the foundation is within one foot of the ground, and this method should be used if burial, spiking or sandbagging is not practical.
Spiking involves removing the sod, with minimal disturbance of the soil, and pressing the sensor into the ground.
Sand bagging also requires removing the sod with minimal disturbance and placing the sensor on the bare spot with a sand bag over the top. The sand bags should be loosely filled with ten pounds of sand.
The ISEE guide notes that a combination of spiking and sandbagging gives even greater assurance that adequate coupling is achieved.
The field practice guidelines note that seismographs should not be operated when the air temperature is less than ten degrees.
Blasting at the S&S mine only occurs during the late fall and winter.
Maul insisted several times that “nobody does that” in reference to putting the seismograph probe into the ground and did not address any methods that might have been used to ensure accurate seismograph readings or whether a seismograph rated for subzero temperatures was used.
Jeff Bennesch, who lives near the S&S mine, said the blasting rattles pint jars sitting on the counter at his house, and that during the first blast at the S&S mine, he was walking between his shop and his shed, and the concussion was so hard that he was knocked to his knees.
“What does it take to get on the monitor program?” Bennesch asked.
The Town of Howard’s blasting ordinance requires that property owners be given 72 hours notice before blasting occurs.
Maul said the mine has blasted two times without giving 24 hours of notice.
“Two out of 80 is good compliance,” Maul said.
Bennesch disagreed. “If two out of 80 airplanes crash while landing, that’s a problem,” he said.
Prior to the meeting, the Howard Town Board had received photographs of the pre-blast survey of the Dachel property.
Howard Town Board members indicated they would review the photographs and any other available information to decide what the town board’s next step would be.
As of the May 6 Howard Town Board meeting, Edward Dachel still had not received a copy of the photographs or the video included in the pre-blast survey.