Letter – Due diligence on data center

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

I wish to add my thoughts to the editorial of Feb. 28 regarding a data center in Surry County (“Surry data center shouldn’t be controversial”). I agree that we must not be so enthusiastic about the potential upsides of these projects that we neglect the possible downsides. 

In addition to the new technology of the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), we must also be mindful of the considerable noise that emanates from these facilities. Nearby residents may be continuously subjected to this noise, possibly for the rest of their lives. There are also potential health risks that are not fully understood. We owe it to our residents to not turn a blind eye to these critical issues.

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I respectfully submit that the county Planning Office does not have the experience or technical knowledge to adequately evaluate the full impact of a data center. The Board of Supervisors should therefore adopt the following proper and transparent process when considering any data center proposal.

The board should commission an independent study to investigate the impact of data centers that are already operational elsewhere in the country. This report would include details regarding the amount and effects of any residual noise, reported health effects and how well the data center owners have lived up to their commitments.

The county Planning Office should engage an independent resource to evaluate all the consequences of any proposed data center, the cost of which would be paid for by the owners of any proposed data center.

These reports, findings and recommendations would be made public and open for comment before any binding commitment is made. If followed, we can be proud of how we managed this project, proud of having a best-in-class data center, and proud that we have done what’s best for our residents.


Dianne Cheek