Last week, the Bolsover MP, Dennis Skinner, asked the prime minister to investigate drinking water problems in an area of his constituency where the shale gas company INEOS had been carrying out seismic surveys.
People on the Oxcroft Estate, a land settlement area of scattered homes and small holdings, had complained about discoloured water coming out of their taps.
Residents said the problems began after INEOS used vibroeseis machines, called thumper trucks by the residents, in fields near their homes earlier this month.
INEOS denied its work caused the problem. Severn Trent blamed a leak in a private water supply 3km away. It said a contractor (not INEOS) had damaged a pipe with a digger.
A timeline compiled by DrillOrDrop shows there are other differences in the accounts of what happened from the residents, water company and INEOS.
A key piece of information is when the problems began on the Oxcroft Estate and when the private water supply pipe was damaged. Residents have photographs of discoloured water from 5 October. Severn Trent said it was aware of the damage to the pipe on the following day. But the company said it was unable to say when the damage was caused.
The timeline also reveals a deteriorating relationship between INEOS and the local people who oppose its plans.
On Friday, an INEOS statement blamed what it called the anti-fracking lobby for “unfair commentary which altered reality to suit its point of view”.
Residents on the Oxcroft Estate who DrillOrDrop spoke to last week were unwilling to give their names for fear of “reprisals”.
Thursday 5 October 2017
Residents on the Oxcroft Estate settlement near Bolsover report that INEOS Shale and its contractors are carrying out seismic surveys using three vibroseis vehicles in fields within 50m of their homes. People in their homes during the testing say they felt vibrations through their feet and their homes shook.
Residents talk online about changes to the colour of their water.
Residents also photograph discoloured water that evening when filling sinks and baths.
They say the problem appears to be restricted to the Oxcroft Estate, later confirmed by Severn Trent.
Friday 6 October
More residents experience discoloured water and report the problem to Severn Trent.
Residents say call centre staff tell them there are no other reported issues in the local area. According to residents, call centre staff say they are unaware of any seismic surveys in the area.
Severn Trent says it believes the water is safe to drink and informs customers to run taps for 20 minutes to clear sediment from the system. No tests have been carried out on the water at this stage.
Severn Trent says it learns that a contractor with a digger has cut through a private water network in a field off Mooracre Lane, Bolsover, 3km from the Oxcroft Estate.
Saturday 7 October 2017
Residents continue to experience discoloured mains water and ask Severn Trent to test the water and investigate the cause.
Severn Trent says it collected a tap water sample and tests came back as satisfactory.
Sunday 8 October 2017
Residents continue to experience intermittent discoloured mains water and ask Severn Trent to carry out testing and an investigation. One resident experiences further deterioration in water colour.
Monday 9 October 2017
1pm: Oxcroft Estate residents speak to a Severn Trent engineer who arrives in the neighbourhood. The residents say he was unaware of any discoloured water issues and was responding to the detection of “a significant loss of water” in the area. Residents say the engineer investigated pipework close to the area that had been seismically surveyed.
Residents talk to INEOS representative, Gordon Grant, on the Oxcroft Estate about the possibility that pipes may have been disturbed or damaged.
Tuesday 10 October 2017
8.20am: Severn Trent vehicles return to the Oxcroft Estate. Residents speak to a different member of staff who is not aware of the seismic testing. Residents say that after hearing a description of the seismic testing process he says it could explain the discolouration and “multiple leaks” on the Oxcroft Estate. Residents say the engineer investigates pipework near the areas that have been seismically surveyed.
3.20pm: BBC Look North team records interviews with residents on the Oxcroft Estate and plans to include a live report in the evening news programme. The team films a Severn Trent representative who tests the discoloured water samples collected by residents from the weekend. BBC Look North does not air the item. A BBC spokesperson told DrillOrDrop:
“Look North checks out many stories, not all of which make it to air, for a number of reasons. The programme has covered many stories related to fracking in the region, and will continue to do so when appropriate.”
Residents write to their MP, Dennis Skinner, about their concerns.
Wednesday 11 October 2017
7.52am: Residents report Severn Trent vehicles return to the Oxcroft Estate. Mmebers of staff reportedly investigate pipework again near the area that has been seismically surveyed and at the front of properties on a private lane.
Thursday 12 October 2017
9.34am: Residents say they continue to experience intermittent discoloured mains water and some experience a further deterioration. They call on Severn Trent to test the water and investigate the cause.
Residents report Severn Trent vehicles return to the Oxcroft Estate and investigate pipework again in the same area as on Wednesday 11 October. Engineers drain water directly from the mains to flush out the worst affected water.
One household, which had an external filter, reports there has been no water discolouration but the filter had collected sediment. Severn Trent provides bottled water to one resident after she raises concerns about the health of her baby.
Dennis Skinner replies to residents, saying he will write to INEOS and Severn Trent. Residents say they write again to Mr Skinner to update him and they make a complaint to the Drinking Water Inspectorate.
Severn Trent tells DrillOrDrop the burst pipe is on Mooracre Lane in Bolsover. INEOS tells DrillOrDrop it was working 3km away from Mooracre Lane.
Friday 13 October 2017
Residents on the Oxcroft Estate say they continue to experience intermittent discoloured mains water. They again ask Severn Trent to carry out testing and investigations.
The local branch of the Co-op delivers 100 2l bottles of water to affected residents
Residents report Severn Trent vehicles return to the Oxcroft Estate and staff again investigate pipework in the same areas as on previous days.
One Oxcroft Estate resident says Severn Trent confirms there is a leak in front of their property, within 300m of the seismic survey sites and on pipework that has sections within 150m of the sites.
3.24pm: An online Derbyshire Times article says:
“Severn Trent says it believes the discolouration has been caused by a burst water pipe and the company has told Bolsover District Council that there is no evidence to suggest that damage was caused to pipes or that the surveys played a part in the discolouration.”
Monday 16 October 2017
8am: Residents report that Severn Trent vehicles return to the Oxcroft Estate and staff investigate pipework in the field that was seismically surveyed along Oxcroft Lane. Residents say the staff member confirms that the company suspects a further rupture in this separate section of pipe – the second suspected leak near the seismic survey area.
Severn Trent press office tells DrillOrDrop the Mooracre Lane leak in Bolsover “was not related to INEOS”. The press officer also says:
“There’s no other leaks in the area at the moment. I’ve checked the area for Oxcroft Estate and nothing else has been reported.”
Wednesday 18 October 2017
Derbyshire Times online article updated with a statement from Derbyshire County Council. This says Severn Trent “have informed us they have no evidence to suggest there had been any damage to their pipes or that the seismic surveys have been a factor in the discolouration.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions, local MP Dennis Skinner calls for a full investigation and the halting of the seismic survey programme.
INEOS issues a statement in response:
“INEOS takes its responsibility for all its works very seriously and takes into account all relevant environment and infrastructure before working on site. Underground imaging surveys have played a long-time role in understanding the UK’s geology, particularly in the era of coal.
“In this case, our survey was carried more than 3 kilometres from the leak reported at Bolsover. There is zero evidence that links the Severn Trent water leak to our work.
“Severn Trent is currently investigating the reported water supply issues in the area. In the meantime, we are disappointed that Mr Skinner chose to make his comments in Parliament before receiving our response to his letter. As a former miner, he knows better than most what is underground and the work we are doing in Bolsover. Our invitation to him stands, to meet with our geologists to discuss our activity and its proximity three kilometres from the Severn Trent leak.”
Residents report that BBC Look North tells them that it is still following the story.
Thursday 19 October 2017
Residents tell DrillOrDrop Severn Trent staff have told them there are two leaks in pipes on the Oxcroft Estate.
Some residents who were affected by the water problems say they have no confidence in Severn Trent or INEOS’s explanations. They say they are not willing to be identified “for fear of reprisals”.
Severn Trent offers to organise a meeting with residents to explain what happened.
Friday 20 October 2017
Severn Trent repeats to DrillOrDrop that the problems were caused by a digger going through a private water pipe near Mooracre Lane in Bolsover. A Severn Trent team went to that location on 6 October but the company spokesperson was unable to say when the damage was done.
The Severn Trent spokesperson adds:
“The [Bolsover] leak affected out network by increasing flows through our pipes and that led to discolouration for a small number of customers who reported this on 6/10.”
“There have been no other leaks in the area, other than a customer reporting a leaking stop tap that was due to be fixed in December but, as we were in the area, it made sense to fix it there and then.”
Residents on the Oxcroft Estate confirm with photographs that the problems began on 5 October. They also say there are no reports of a leaking stop tap.
INEOS issues a statement:
“INEOS Shale has been made aware that Severn Trent has finished its investigation into the recently reported water leak in Bolsover. It concluded the damage was caused by a local contractor, not related to INEOS, who burst a pipe with a digger (equipment that the INEOS survey team does not use).
“The unfair commentary on this issue from the anti-fracking lobby is a prime example of altering reality to suit their point of view.
“INEOS Shale remains committed to safe and community-conscious works as well as responsive and informative consultation and liaison. We sincerely believe Shale gas development can transform the UK’s industrial sector and can bring much needed jobs and investment to the local area.”
Monday 23 October 2017
The community group, Bolsover Against Fracking, tells DrillOrDrop:
“Bolsover Against Fracking has been very aware of the ongoing problems of contaminated water supplies to the residents of the Oxcroft Estates at Bolsover.
“It would appear that there have been several contradictions between INEOS statements and those of Severn Trent and its workmen, both in time and place of the incidents.
“These differences undermine public confidence in the accuracy of statements made by these companies and also in their future integrity.
“The seismic surveying by INEOS is continuing unabated in the area and Bolsover Against Fracking will continue to pay close attention to these further activities.”
Reporting for this piece was made possible by donations from individual readers of DrillOrDrop.com