Bitcoin mining companies have proliferated in the United States since China shut down this activity in 2021.
In the US border town of Niagara Falls, residents accustomed to the soothing roar of the famous falls recently discovered a far less pleasant sound: the “ghostly hum” of bitcoin mining companies.
“I sleep maybe four hours because of that constant noise,” says Elizabeth Lundy, an 80-year-old retired hairdresser. “I can even hear the sound through the storm windows.”
On a sunny October morning, a mechanical buzz could be heard clearly on Lundy’s porch. The noise turned into a deafening noise as one walked two blocks to Buffalo Avenue, where the American bitcoin miners operate.
Bitcoin mining companies have proliferated in the United States since China shut down this activity in 2021. The United States is now emerging as a world leader in the industry.
Attracted by the cheap hydropower available in Niagara Falls, Blockfusion moved into a former coal plant there in 2019, followed by US Bitcoin in 2020, which operates out of a former sodium plant.
US Bitcoin installed hundreds of noisy fans outside, which were needed to cool the thousands of computer graphics cards that heat up while solving the complex equations needed to earn them cryptocurrency.
– ‘A 747 jet’ –
“It sounds like a 747 jet,” said Frank Peller, a 70-year-old resident who lives in a brownstone more than a mile from this crypto mining operation.
“It is loudest in the morning, at night and when there is high humidity and a breeze,” he added.
Once, he could sit in his backyard and hear the roar of Niagara Falls, more than two miles away. But now, “you can’t hear it at all” and you can’t avoid “the roar of every day bitcoin mining”.
Bryan Maacks, who lives closer to Buffalo Avenue, described a “ghostly, vibrating hum” — an annoying thumping that has been going through his house day and night since last winter.
“It’s mentally very discouraging. It’s like having a toothache 24 hours a day every day,” said Maacks, 65.
He said he wears headphones all the time and uses a fan to block out the noise from falling asleep.
Maacks launched a petition and put a “US Bitcoin Stop the Noise” sign on the back of his red pickup truck, which he parked in front of the company for several weeks.
“The noise pollution from this industry is like nothing else there has been,” said Niagara Falls mayor Robert Restaino in his office, which was decorated with paintings of the famous falls.
That’s quite a statement in a city that has embraced heavy industry for decades.
Faced with a deluge of complaints, mostly related to US Bitcoin, the mayor issued a moratorium on any new mining activity in December 2021 and then set strict noise limits of 40 to 50 decibels near residential areas in early September.
– ‘Sound barrier’ –
US Bitcoin said it is taking steps to address the issue.
“Immediately after these concerns were identified, we erected a plastic barrier,” the company said in a statement to AFP.
“We also conducted acoustic studies and had plans made for a larger soundproofing wall” that could not be built due to the moratorium, the company said.
In the nearby town of North Tonawanda, Canadian mining company Digihost is also facing the ire of local residents and has undertaken the construction of a sound-proofing wall more than six meters (20 feet) high at an estimated cost of several hundred thousand dollars, mayor said. Austin Tylec.
In Niagara Falls, City Hall ordered the closure of the two bitcoin farms in early October until they comply with new local statutes.
While both companies say they are collaborating with the city, only Blockfusion had shut down its processors and reduced its fan base by the end of October, while US Bitcoin was still running at full capacity, an AFP reporter found.
“If they continue to refuse to comply with our order to stop, we will have to go to court,” Restaino said.
Such a legal battle is already pitting bitcoin ranch Red Dog Technologies against local authorities in Tennessee. Other noise complaints near computer centers have arisen from North Carolina to Pennsylvania.
“I’m going to protest until the buzz is gone, basically, until I get the roar of the falls back, because that’s what I used to hear,” Maacks said.