Sewer plant blasting could rattle residents

That rumbling noise and earth-shaking feeling that residents on Huntington's west side may be experiencing twice a day isn't coming from phantom thunderstorms; it's blasting going on at the city sewer plant.

Anthony Goodnight, the city's director of Public Works and Engineering Services, says the blasting is part of the Rabbit Run Project, the third phase of the city's long-term control plan. He says the blasting began at the plant on Hitzfield Street Tuesday, March 18, and will continue about eight weeks.

"We're putting in a large detention tank just east of our sewage plant," he says. "They're blasting out the rock - the limestone."

The hole is being dug out for the tank, which will measure about 40 feet deep, 90 feet wide and 100 feet long. In addition, blasting will also clear out space for pipes going to the tank.

The times of the blasting will most likely occur around 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Goodnight says, after safety precautions are followed and people are steered away from the area. County dispatchers will be notified shortly before the blasting occurs so they can address any calls that may come in.

Goodnight says the noise and effect of the blast will be minimal - resembling a large rumbling of a thunderstorm.

"They have to mat it - they put mats and chain link fence over the top to keep debris from flying. What will happen is the air percussion from the blast will be what you hear, and you probably won't hear any problems like shaking foundations. But there will be some air percussions, like when you get a big windstorm and you hear your windows rattle a little bit. That's what it's going to be. ... Most people probably won't know it's even happening."

Contractors will take seismic readings of the blasting to make sure safety regulations are followed and the blasts are not too large.

Goodnight says the city will recycle the limestone blasted from the site, saving taxpayers money.

"We are actually bringing in a rock crusher and they're going to crush it down and use it as backfill," he explains. "The more we keep on-site the cheaper it is for us. That way we don't have to haul it off."

The original estimated cost of the project was $23 million; however, Goodnight says the project is costing $16 million, good news for water customers.

"We've redesigned it," he adds. "Instead of pumping water we're actually doing gravity, so we've just continued to drive down operating costs for the rate payers."

F.A. Wilhelm Construction of Indianapolis is in charge of the project, using the subcontractor Bedrock Contracting out of Kentucky to do the blast work.