Gladys Nicole Anderson lives surrounded by peaceful nature and farmlands in rural Arkansas. But every morning, she, her husband, and her kids wake up from the high-pitched continuous hum.
Sometimes they don’t get any sleep at all because of the sound.
Gladys Anderson and her family have a crypto mining facility half a mile from their house in Bono, Arkansas. The energy-intensive mining computers and the fans that are keeping them cool produce a non-stopping noise.
After Arkansas state passed the crypto mining-friendly legislation earlier this year, locals were powerless against loud cryptocurrency miners. To reclaim their peace, they’ve come up with a plan that could reshape the cryptocurrency mining industry in the United States.
The Hostages of Loud Crypto Mining
Since China banned crypto mining sites in 2021, numerous cryptocurrency miners transferred their operations to the United States. Relatively cheap land and energy in Southeastern states eventually made them one of the most desirable spots to set up crypto mining facilities.
Arkansas, one of the ten lowest-price electricity states became an optimal spot.
In early May 2023, cryptocurrency mining firm Green Digital LLC opened its cryptocurrency mining site around Bono, in Greenbrier. With dozens of stacked containers housing crypto mining hardware and powerful fans for cooling it, they began operations.
Since then, for nearly 120 consecutive days, Gladys Anderson and her family have been hearing a constant “annoying” hum in their house and its premises. The sound typically ranges around 70 decibels and does not stop day or night. Often at night, it sounds even louder.
According to Gladys Anderson, staying outside is unbearable. All the birds have left the backyard, her kids are forced to stay inside the house to get even a little rest from the noise, and she herself suffers ongoing headaches for weeks.
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70 Decibels Non-Stop Comes With a Price
Richard Neitzel, professor in environmental health sciences and global public health at the University of Michigan, suggests that unwanted, loud, and continuous sound is historically considered noise pollution and leads to a litany of problems that may even have catastrophic impacts.
He told DailyCoin that noise pollution is not only damaging our hearing, but is also linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, mental health impacts, and cognition.
“We don’t know exactly how much noise it takes for you to be at risk of depression or a heart attack, but we know that it’s lower than it takes to hurt your hearing. So even if your hearing is fine, you might still be at risk of some of these other, you know, potentially catastrophic health impacts.”
So, from which threshold does noise become harmful to our hearing? Professor Neitzel affirms that 70 decibel sound from crypto mining facilities can be likened to moderate volume conversation or a quiet vacuum cleaner and can’t be considered extreme noise by any means.
However, hearing damage from noise pollution depends on three key factors: the intensity of the sound, its duration, and how frequently we are exposed to it.
“If you’re at that level, on average, for 24 hours, then your risk of hearing loss starts to increase. And the higher the noise level, or the longer you’re exposed, the more your risk.”
Even if the sound is not loud enough to make us sick, it can still be loud enough to make us annoyed. That has its own impacts in terms of stress and disrupted sleep, which increases the risk of heart attack or cardiovascular disease, notes the professor.
In his opinion, the human brain is a sophisticated organ that filters things out of our cognitions. However, our nervous system, our heart, and other parts of the body are still responding to them. This is especially important at night.
“You may not be exposed to enough noise that it wakes you up. But your heart rate is fluctuating with that noise, your body’s stimulation is going up and down with that noise, even if mentally you’re not aware that’s happening. This is why it’s so important for us to give people rest during the nighttime hours so they can sleep.”
According to Richard Neitzel, these factors make noise pollution especially dangerous for children, whose systems are still developing and who may have a whole lifetime of dealing with the negative impacts of noise.
Moreover, as noise pollution has an impact on our health and well-being, it subsequently has a negative effect on other spheres of our lives, like real estate prices.
An unbiased real estate broker informed DailyCoin, residential property value is vulnerable to disturbed neighborhoods. Although the property price depends on multiple factors like sound intensity, location, individual need, noise tolerance, and even the general economic situation, a residential property’s value can theoretically decline by up to 25 percent due to a loud neighborhood.
Is There Anybody to Blame?
Gladys Anderson and other local residents have no doubt – the main culprit of the annoying and never-ending noise in their neighborhoods is a cryptocurrency mining facility owned and operated by Green Digital LLC.
According to Anderson, the Chinese-related crypto mining company promised to install a sound wall right after they opened the site in April. However, this is yet to materialize, and the Anderson family has been dealing with the relentless noise for nearly three months.
She and other residents have turned to the police multiple times. However, the latter could not take any action because, officially, the cryptocurrency mining company is not violating any existing laws.
Lack of Noise Regulation
While acknowledging the impact of noise pollution on public health and well-being, the United States does not have a unified regulation for noise pollution.
The country relies on The Noise Control Act of 1972, which establishes a national policy and ensures an environment free from excessive noise, dangerous to the health and well-being of all Americans.
However, it is primarily local governments, like cities and counties of each state, that regulate noise policies and noise ordinances that determine the permitted level, duration, and source of sound and restrict excessive noise. Each jurisdiction is responsible for establishing and enforcing its own rules based on the specific needs or preferences of its local communities.
The thing is, the vast majority of the counties do not have approved and active noise ordinances in place when it comes to new kinds of businesses like cryptocurrency mining, which is typically loud and noisy activity.
Controversial Act 851 of Arkansas
The final straw for Arkansas’s Bono community was a new law called the Arkansas Data Centers Act or Act 851, approved by the state’s House of Representatives and Senate in early April 2023.
The new regulation seeks to guide the growing digital currency industry and “protect Arkansas from fraudulent business practices.”
It further provides cryptocurrency mining businesses with the same rights as data centers and prohibits discrimination against crypto mining operations, which comes in the form of “industry-specific regulations and taxes.”
The legislation allows crypto mining businesses to operate if they comply with state laws and any ordinance concerning operations and safety. The new law came into effect on August 1st.
Source: Act 851
However, the circumstances surrounding the approval of Act 851 raised suspicions among local residents.
The bill, authored by Republican Representative Rick McClure, was filed, debated in the Senate, and finally approved by the House of Representatives in seven business days. On April 7, 93 House representatives out of 100 unanimously voted “yes,” while one was against it, and the other six did not participate in the vote.
This is unusually fast, considering that the legislative approval process usually takes several months to a year for the bill to go through the entire process, as it includes an introduction, review, debates, amendments, and final votes.
As Arkansas’s residents shared on social media, some of their representatives publicly admitted that they hadn’t even read the text of the bill, even though they voted in favor of it.
The fact that the law was passed unusually quickly also surprised its supporters, who named the situation a “surprise victory” at the time.
DailyCoin contacted the author of Act 851, Representative Rick McClure for comments, but has not received any response by the time of publishing.
Triggered the String of Noise Ordinances
Despite the legal situation, state counties still had a single remaining method to make a change: the ability to establish their own noise ordinances before August 1st, when Data Centers Act or Act 851 comes into force.
This is exactly what they did during the first months of summer, triggering a chain reaction across the state. Up to 50 counties out of 75 passed their own legislations, imposing restrictions on data centers and cryptocurrency mining sites. The legislation decrees that data centers and mining sites cannot exceed a 60 decibel limit during the daytime and a 50 decibel limit at night.
In addition to that, local communities say that they have not yet finished and are now seeking to repeal and outlaw the Act 851 in Arkansas.
If local residents were to succeed in their goal, Arkansas could become one of the first states to prohibit noise pollution caused by cryptocurrency miners.
Earlier this year and at the end of last year, other states, such as North Carolina and New York, introduced their own temporary restrictions on cryptocurrency mining operations due to their adverse environmental impact.
Crypto Miners Have Room for Improvement
While many counties within specific states lack established noise regulations or have not yet put them into effect, cases in which businesses are fined for noise pollution are irregular.
The severity of noise pollution fines depends on state laws and factors like community impact, business size, and repeat offenses.
However, as community tensions rise, it’s up to cryptocurrency mining companies to weigh potential consequences. So, what steps can they take to reduce the noise that comes from their digital asset mining operations?
“The noise or sound survey is an insurance policy,” claims Phil Harvey, CEO and founder of Sabre56, the crypto mining operation and consultancy company that has built numerous mining sites across the US and Canada.
In his view, it’s always valuable to conduct a sound survey to measure noise levels and gather accurate data before establishing a crypto mining site. Following this, companies should evaluate “what environmental factors may have changed during construction, that may or not may have affected noise levels”.
Finally, once mining operations get launched, it’s crucial to continuously monitor noise levels as the crypto mining site operates at full capacity.
“Without several benchmarks like these, suggestions by any party – whether for or against the new noise level – has no basis for argument, potentially leading to irreconcilable conflict with weak positions on both sides. In these cases, one must fall back on a bylaw (if there is one in place), which will likely bias the discussion and create a dissatisfying outcome for one of the parties,” concludes the CEO of Sabre56.
The Bottom Line
In the context of noise pollution arising from crypto mining facilities in the United States, it becomes evident that addressing the issue extends beyond the responsibilities of cryptocurrency miners alone.
Irresponsible decision-making by some legislators, and passing laws without thorough deliberation plays a critical role in exacerbating the problem.
The situation in Arkansas shows that finding the right balance between business interests and community well-being would be the right way to move forward. Otherwise, the crypto industry as a whole will continue facing stigma and negative negative perceptions for a long time.
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