by: John Jenco
Posted: / Updated:
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Electricity and internet provider BrightRidge confirmed Tuesday it has received a letter from the Washington County government urging compliance over a loud Bitcoin mining facility operating on one of its properties.
At a Washington County Commission meeting on Monday night, commissioners voted unanimously to have Planning Director Angie Charles send the letter, which describes a zoning violation on the Brightridge property in rural Limestone.
Washington County Commissioner Kent Harris said the letter urged Brightridge to comply with zoning laws as a public utility within 30 days. He said the commercial operation of the Bitcoin mine by private company Red Dog Technologies is a violation of the property’s zoning.
The commission’s vote allows the county attorney to pursue litigation if BrightRidge does not comply.
“I think that it should be shut down,” Harris said. “Litigation is something nobody likes, but if it comes to that, that’s what it’s going to come to.”
The original rezoning request, approved by the County Commission in Feb. 2020, asked for the 22-acre property to be rezoned from general agricultural land to agriculture business, which meant utility-only land use. BrightRidge proposed the use of the land for a blockchain data center.
Harris serves the district the holds the mine. He regretted his vote, saying BrightRidge didn’t tell the commission the full story.
“All the commission has said all along that we were misled from the beginning,” Harris said. “This was a situation that was sort of pulled over our eyes. We thought it was going to be a solar farm or something for BrightRidge.”
Plans for an eventual solar farm do appear in the rezoning documents, but they make no mention of Red Dog Technologies or that any private entity would operate on the grounds.
Last month, Washington County Mayor and Brightridge board member Joe Grandy addressed the commission on the noise specifically. He said he mine should mitigate the noise coming from it or be shut down.
Although the noise is not what threatened the mine legally, Grandy said efforts to lower the noise were too little, too late.
“That’s just not what the business was that wound up being part of this project,” Grandy said. “The folks at Red Dog worked hard with the neighbors to try to get that noise level down and be better neighbors. It was a slow process, and while they worked at it diligently it probably wasn’t quite enough.”
Concern with the Bitcoin farm started earlier this year after residents complained about the loud hum it emitted from cooling fans.
Those fans run hard because the mine is Brightridge’s number one customer. No other operation under Brightridge consumes as much electricity as the Red Dog servers.
Brightridge executives were unavailable to comment due to the potential for litigation.
The Washington County Commission will decide on further action at its next meeting if Brightridge does not comply with the zoning requirements.