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July 9, 2013

Board of Works OKs seismic testing

TERRE HAUTE — More seismic testing is coming to the city’s north side.

The Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety on Monday approved an agreement with Eagle Exploration Inc. of Traverse City, Mich., to allow for seismic testing along a two-mile stretch of Lafayette Avenue from Linden Street to Hollywood Avenue.

Such testing uses vibrations to identify possible pockets of oil or natural gas under the earth’s surface. It does not guarantee oil or gas drilling will take place, but it creates a map for geologists to study, said Leonard A. Harrand, president of Eagle Exploration, who spoke to the five-person board.

The testing could begin in late July or early August, Harrand told the Tribune-Star after Monday’s meeting.

Eagle Exploration did recent northside seismic testing around 13th Street and Haythorne Avenue, Harrand said. That testing, which involved the use of vibrations directed underground from a “shaker truck,” resulted in no complaints or problems, assistant city engineer Larry Robbins said during the meeting.

Eagle Exploration provides its own traffic management during the testing, Harrand said.

Because Lafayette Avenue is a busy street, the testing will be conducted between about 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., Harrand told the board. “We understand that’s a very busy street.”

Last fall, seismic testing took place in downtown Terre Haute. In many cases, business owners on Wabash Avenue, where the trucks were operating, said they noticed shaking from the testing.

But “nothing shakes the ground like a train,” Harrand told the Tribune-Star later Monday, noting Terre Haute residents deal with trains on a regular basis.

The vibrations for seismic testing fall in a range from 18 hertz to about 150 hertz and last about eight seconds at a time, Harrand said. Three vibrations will likely take place at each testing site before the trucks move on, he said.

Hypothetically, Harrand asked the board whether the City of Terre Haute would ever permit the use of small explosive charges for underground mapping. City officials, including city attorney Choui-il Lee, replied that companies conducting such testing would need appropriate insurance coverage and also said the age of housing in Terre Haute could make it vulnerable to damage.

Terre Haute would also likely want statements from other cities where explosives have been used, added Jon Stinson, a member of the board. Bob Murray, board president, said any request for using explosives should be submitted to the board well in advance of when a decision must be made.

The explosive charges in such tests are very small, Harrand said. Typical charges involve just three to five ounces of explosives, he said. “I could set one off across the street and you probably would never know it had gone off,” he said.

Harrand did not indicate any specific plans to ask for permission to use explosives for testing, but wanted to ask, he said, because the permitting process for seismic testing here seems relatively new.

“I see that probably as a potential question that somebody is going to have sometime,” he said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@trib


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