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A $30,000 Boom Detector: City Buys Seismograph

"In the case of these annoying disturbances, we'll know whether it's natural or man-made," Chapman says.

The seismic monitor is connected to the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado and can detect everything from geological plate shifting to trucks. "It will register anything in the world," says Bill Farrar, spokesman for the city's Department of Emergency Management. It could also quell public fear or frustration.

At the time of Richmond's infamous booms in 2004, city officials were unable to determine the cause of the rumblings Ginter Park residents reported to police and fire officials. Seismic activity was ruled out as the culprit. Likewise, the disturbances didn't appear to be caused by construction or the military jets.

"When the booms were occurring, we had no resources to identify them," Farrar recalls.

It turns out the booms were the work of two teenagers making homemade exploding devices from soda bottles. They were convicted of manufacturing, possessing and using explosives and sentenced to community service.

The high-tech seismic monitoring station is a first for Richmond. The state had invested in the technology before — there is a station in Louisa County — but stopped funding the programs about 13 years ago.

The cost of the new seismic detector is $30,000, which Farrar says the city paid for through federal homeland security grant funds. S

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