Seismic testing to map the Marcellus Shale created loud noises in parts of South Fayette
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Loud pounding sounds and convoys of large trucks through South Fayette recently were made by Dawson Geophysical Co., which was performing seismic testing on six roads and various private properties as part of Marcellus Shale mapping activities.
The testing between July 6 and 11 involved vibration trucks, or so-called thumper trucks, that drop weight to create sound waves that penetrate the ground and reflect back with information about underground characteristics of the Marcellus Shale.
Township engineer Mike Benton said he pre-inspected Battle Ridge, Robinson Run, Marshall, Rigerts Hill, Cecil Reissing and Cecil Sturgeon roads where Dawson used the thumper trucks.
He said the firm met the requirements of South Fayette's pending ordinance on geophysical testing, which prohibits the use of explosives.
Deron Gabriel, commissioners president, said the township received some complaints about noise and brief traffic delays and heard concerns about damage to the roads, but there were no major problems.
"The fact that they did not use explosives probably eliminated some of the concerns among residents," Mr. Gabriel said.
Dawson Geophysical is based in Midland, Texas, and maintains an office in Southpointe near the Range Resources headquarters.
According to the Dawson website, the company maintains dynamite and helicopters in the Pittsburgh area. However, neither was used in South Fayette, township officials said.
South Fayette enforced its pending regulations on seismic testing, including the explosives ban, permit requirements and rules dealing with setbacks, safety, traffic and roads, financial bonding, insurance, work hours, notification of neighbors and violations.
Commissioners voted July 18 to advertise a revised ordinance for final approval, with changes recommended by the engineer. They include adding a $5,000 escrow to reimburse the township for employee expenses; requiring two weeks' notice prior to testing; doubling the amount of bonding from $250,000 to $500,000; and raising the amount of required liability insurance from $1 million to $5 million.
Depending on the outcome of South Fayette's joint lawsuit against Act 13 -- the state law regulating the natural gas industry -- the township could be forced to revise its seismic testing rules.
But solicitor Jonathan Kamin said a 120-day injunction issued by a state court in April allows South Fayette to enforce its regulations while the lawsuit is being considered.
"It's our understanding that our drilling ordinance and our seismic testing ordinance are still in place," Commissioner Joe Horowitz said.
Dawson recently sued neighboring Cecil for enforcing a seismic testing ordinance and prohibiting thumper trucks on township-owned roads.
First Published July 26, 2012 4:55 am