AMHERST - "It was just like somebody hit the house a car but without the sound."
Shirley Brooks was sitting at her computer when a thud rippled underneath her feet. The vibration was so distinct the last thing she thought of was the notice on her countertop explaining construction workers would be blasting bedrock for a new Shannex complex a block away from her Townsend Drive home.
"There wasn't that 'bang' sound," Brooks said. "It never occurred to me it was happening on Willow Street.
Bill Archer, however, knew.
A construction worker for Alberta oil interests, Archer has come to know and recognize the feel of blasting, a component to retrieving seismic information when looking for oil.
Unlike Brooks, however, Archer says he had no idea why blasting was taking place, literally, in his backyard.
"We didn't even get a knock on the door," Archer said Wednesday morning, just moments after the first blasting of the day was fired, the third since Tuesday. "I heard the horn sound and thought 'What was that?'"
The familiar jolt from the blast answered his question.
"When an elevator stops and gives that jolt, that's what it feels like," Archer said.
A pre-blast survey, described by Amherst's director of planning and engineering Jason MacDonald, included engineers going into people's homes addressed within 220 metres of the site, but Archer claims his home was not contacted in person nor in writing.
The home did not suffer any damage that he was aware of but Archer says he is disappointed with the apparent lack in communication, especially when the work site is literally in his backyard.
I don't have a range finder to tell you if that's 220 metres away or not but I'm pretty sure I could hit it with a rock," he said.
On Townsend Drive, though, Brooks suspects blasting may have caused her kitchen counter to jar away from the wall. Caulking between the two had pulled away.
The town, MacDonald said Wednesday, was not involved in the pre-blast survey.
"The town is not involved whatsoever," MacDonald said. "The whole pre-blast survey is above and beyond."
Contractors for the Shannex complex are using Halifax Regional Municipality standards, MacDonald said, which exceed provincial standards. Without equally stringent bylaws in Amherst as the HRM, however, MacDonald only has the provincial guidelines to fall back on until Thursday, when blasting is scheduled to wrap up.
"My job is to make sure they follow the rules," MacDonald said. "They've followed the rules."
His office has received calls from concerned citizens but no one has filed complaint forms against the project since blasting began, MacDonald said, and could not answer what steps homeowners with suspected damage as a result of the blasting could take.
The contract on file for the project is ACL Construction. Attempts to reach ACL officials responsible for the Shannex complex construction were unsuccessful.