‘The resolution is results,’ affected neighbor says
LIMESTONE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Neighbors of a noisy Bitcoin mine in the New Salem community hope what they’ve been seeing the past few weeks will change what they’ve been hearing for several months – a nightly racket caused by fans cooling massive computer servers.
Standing in a field a couple hundred yards from the mine, which is adjacent to a BrightRidge electrical substation, New Salem Baptist Church pastor Craig Ponder said the mine’s operators have begun installing various fixes aimed at suppressing the noise.
“They’ve been very proactive,” Ponder said of Red Dog Technologies’ efforts since late August. With workers behind him in the process of building a wall around the facility, Ponder said that activity has included direct communication with Red Dog representative Ed Medford.
“He called me, in fact, maybe just a week ago and said you’re going to notice a lot of construction going on, and sure enough there’ve been a lot of vehicles down here, there’s a wall going up,” said Ponder.
Red Dog and BrightRidge representatives are due to speak for a third straight month at this month’s Washington County Commission meeting, scheduled for Monday.
Tim Hylton lives even closer to the mine than Ponder in a house he and his wife have been in for 18 years. He hasn’t had any direct communication with Medford but has spoken frequently with a BrightRidge employee.
“He asked me yesterday if I’d noticed any changes,” Hylton told News Channel 11 Friday. He said he hasn’t noticed much change yet.
“The wall is built on the north side of my house, and he’s telling me that they are going to put a wall on this side that faces my house that will stop a lot of the sound,” Hylton said. “He says they’re going to do a lot of other changes to their fans and things of that nature to get it quietened down.”
But Hylton, who has a decibel meter and knows how to use it, said the readings are the same as they were in May – often over 55 decibels at night. He said the change has definitely decreased his and his wife’s enjoyment of their own piece of paradise.
“We don’t have as many get-togethers because of the noise, and the five acres we’re standing on – I’m a building contractor, had plans on building some homes here, and wouldn’t dare now because of the sound. It’s devalued my property to where I would not want to build a home here.”
Washington County commissioners have ratcheted up pressure on Red Dog and BrightRidge to seek solutions since community members from as far as a mile away began complaining about the noise in May.
That pressure peaked at the Aug. 23 commission meeting, when a majority of commissioners suggested the company should shut down operations until the noise is reduced substantially.
Red Dog’s Todd Napier told commissioners at that meeting the company was in the middle of research and contracts with several companies to develop a sound-dampening wall, louvers that would redirect sound and potentially quieter fans.
“Much of what they said at the county commission meeting, we’ve seen boots on the ground,” Ponder said.
“He told me they had installed some of the louvers that they had sent off to R and D,” Ponder said of his conversation with Medford. “Trying to revamp the fans, that whole noisemaking system. They’ve got a couple of the pods that have those installed.”
Ponder said Medford shared an anecdote about noticing a difference already, though only part of the work was complete.
“He told me they could stand beside one of the pods that still had the old louvers and couldn’t even have a conversation, move to one beside it that had the new installed louvers and could carry on a conversation.”
Up the hill and reserving judgment
Hylton said he would like to see the results make a difference for community members.
“If you’re in the back part inside my home, you can hear it when you go to bed and you can hear it when you get up,” Hylton said.
It’s only in front, where the house blocks the sound, that the Hyltons don’t notice the mine’s constant hum.
The late afternoon and early evening hours offer a slight reprieve. Red Dog uses very little power during that time due to a cost differential. Its low “off peak” rate becomes available at 8 p.m.
“It will kick up, be twice as loud at 8:01, and it stays that loud until I go to bed. I’ve checked the sound and it stays pretty much the same,” Hylton said.
He considers the best-case scenario to be Red Dog getting the decibel level under 30.
“When it’s around 30, I don’t even know it’s there.”
He said he’s appreciative of Red Dog’s efforts.
“We don’t have any recourse at this point,” said Hylton. “They’re already there, so at least they are making an effort to quieten it down, to be part of our community and to fit in. And nobody wants a neighbor that’s constantly blowing sound over on you.”
Hylton hasn’t attended any of the commission meetings where Red Dog has answered questions, but when asked what he’d like for the company to know, he said “just how bothersome they are.
“The whole community is in an uproar because of them. We didn’t ask them to come here,” he said. “We didn’t really know what was going on. I guess we should have been a little more proactive whenever we seen the signs of the rezoning, but we communicated with each other around the community and the answer that we were getting was not what it is.
“I’d like for them to be better neighbors. I would love to stay here, but I won’t listen to that the rest of my life.”
Right now, Hylton is reserving judgment.
“The resolution is results,” he said. “So if all the technology and the walls, the things they’re putting up work, that will be wonderful.”
Red Dog’s Ed Medford declined an interview ahead of Monday night’s presentation at the county commission but provided this statement:
“Red Dog Technologies appreciates the opportunity to be part of the Limestone and Washington County community. We have been, and remain, committed to reducing noise levels that are generating complaints by some within the surrounding community. In that regard, we are planning to update the Washington County Commission at their Monday night meeting as to the current noise mitigation efforts.”