Blasts rattling nerves

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Neighbors complain about explosives at dog-training facility

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Explosions at American K-9 Interdiction in Walters are rattling the nerves and windows of nearby residents. 

Several neighbors complained about the activity at the dog training facility recently  at a meeting of the Southern and Central Isle of Wight Citizens Group meeting. 

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American K-9, located on Burdette Road, is working with Point One USA conducting explosives training that K-9 owner Paul Roushia describes as “very, very soft … small explosions.” 

Don Dalton, who lives across from the facility, has a different view, saying the palpable boom, or vibrations, after the blasts rattle their windows and that his mother, who has a pacemaker, had to leave when the training was going on. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“It’s tough when you’re on your deck in the afternoon, trying to have a good time,” said Dalton, adding, “my two little dogs, they just go bonkers.”

Former Carrsville District Supervisor Rex Alphin, who also farms nearby, described it as a “sonic boom.” 

“It’s affecting our quality of life,” he said. 

The five-day explosives training has three days of fieldwork, which includes setting off explosives any time between 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. no more than 15 weeks a year, according to documents provided by Isle of Wight County.

Isle of Wight County officials went to the site to listen to the explosions and determined that they were no louder than the State Police firing range, also located nearby, said Isle of Wight County Director of Planning and Zoning Amy Ring.  

K-9 is restricted to a noise level no more than 75 decibels at the property line, while a shotgun blast is 140 decibels, said Ring.

Ring said the sound level of the explosions is less than that of the gunfire that the company already generates. 

K-9 has built noise barriers as high as 10 feet, said Ring.

 “We’re trying to muzzle it,” said Roushia of the plywood, sand and fencing used to redirect the sound. 

Roushia said the noise does not exceed 70 decibels. 

“We’re well aware of the locals concerns and experimenting to bring the noise level down,” said Roushia, adding that comparing the blast vibrations as a “sonic boom” is “exaggerating.”

The amount of explosive material may not exceed 300 grams, according to county documents.

The activity does not require any additional state and federal permits than already exist for the property. A public hearing was not required and there is no reason to stop the explosions unless the company violates their various permits, according to Ring.

The company has also sent out letters to nearby residents and posted a training schedule on its website, said Ring. 

Point One has upcoming detonations scheduled for July 17, 29, 30, and 31.

The residents said it wasn’t so much the noise as the vibration that accompanies the blasts. 

Alphin said the number of explosions can range from 10-15 in one day and Dalton said he noted 13 in one day. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton told the residents that the county doesn’t have a decibel level in its noise ordinance, much less anything to deal with what folks were describing as the “concussion” after the blast. 

Keaton said he would explore that issue to see if other localities have had to deal with something similar.

Two years ago, the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors shelved proposed revisions to the county’s noise ordinance, which would have employed noise meters, because the devices would be too expensive. 

Former county attorney Mark Popovich had suggested the changes because trying to enforce the county’s noise ordinance was hard to prosecute in court. 

American K-9 Interdiction was approved in 2009 as a dog training facility, along with administrative offices, explosives magazine, animal food storage and related activities. The company trains dogs for a variety of uses, including bomb detection, for government and law enforcement use. 

The company approached Isle of Wight in April 2018 about adding an amendment to its special use permit for the explosives training, said Ring.

American K-9 has not operated without controversy. Initially, nearby residents of a proposed former site in Zuni were concerned about the dogs getting loose so the county assisted the company with obtaining its current site, which was formerly owned by Isle of Wight. 

Three years ago, controversy erupted again when K-9 wanted to open an outdoor public shooting and skeet range, including the use of high-powered rifles.  After immense public opposition, that venture was defeated by the Board of Supervisors. 

K-9 pays $53,567 in real estate and personal property taxes, storm water and business license fees, according to Isle of Wight Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney.  {/mprestriction}