“Burning throat, nausea, headaches: the effect on my family from a smell at Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site”


Third Energy’s Kirby Misperton site, photographed from Claire Head’s garden, 600m away

As Third Energy prepares to frack a well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, a villager describes what happened last week when her family was affected by a smell from the site. DrillOrDrop asked Third Energy about the incident. You can read it’s statement at the end of this post.

Hi my name’s Claire Head. I’m 44, a mum of two, who lives at Kirby Misperton.

On Tuesday last week, a very strong egg smell entered the village. It came in our house. We live 600 metres or so from the well.

My son Liam (below right), who is 11, was already off school. We started experiencing a headache and burning in our throats so I called the Environment Agency to report the smell and symptoms.

I telephoned Third Energy to find out what happened, as it was from their site.

I spoke to the site manager from Third Energy. He told me they were cleaning tanks and maybe some oil was left in. He said I should shut my windows and it would go in a few hours.

I got no apology at all.

I was in tears and terrified because I had my son with me. We felt nausea, light-headedness but the burning throat was the worst. You could taste it in your mouth. My husband came home and straightaway he started feeling unwell with burning throat, nausea and headache. His work colleague got a headache and nausea too.

My parents also came to the house and felt unwell. The smell was so strong in our house. It was coming in through the air vents.

I telephoned my GP, who said we should go to hospital if it got worse. The Environment Agency rang me back to say someone was going to the Third Energy site.

On Wednesday I still felt unwell so I went to hospital where my blood pressure and heart rate were up and fast. I lost my voice because my throat felt burnt. I was observed for about four to five hours and then sent home.

On Wednesday, I telephoned the Environment Agency to see what had happened. I was told that there was a slight spike in hydrogen sulphide but they didn’t think that would cause my symptoms.

The Environment Agency said Third Energy had told two stories. One was about cleaning the tanks. The other was about cleaning the well. But they were only using fresh water.

The Environment Agency said they were going back to Third Energy on Friday to inspect and look around.

I got passed on to Public Health England who spoke to me on Thursday and they have spoken to my GP. My GP told me hydrogen sulphide causes irritation of the lungs. I’m an asthmatic so I’m more vulnerable.

The GP said hydrogen sulphide causes headache, nausea and sore throat yet the Environment Agency seemed to dismiss it, claiming it was only a small spike.

The smell was smelt two miles from the village. A number of villagers complained to the Environment Agency.

KM8 from KM Claire Head2

Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, photographed from Claire Head’s back garden, 600m away

On Friday I had to go back to my GP for a check-up. At 2 50pm we passed a convoy of police escorting a Third Energy vehicle with a tank in the back saying portable water. Me and my dad both thought ‘That’s odd. A very big coincidence that the Environment Agency were at Third Energy for a site check. Was there something to hide in that tank? Very odd to have a police escort.’

Since I inhaled the fumes on Tuesday my health has been iffy. I’ve got a chest infection. I’ve spoken to neighbours who also felt sick and had symptoms. I’ve no doubt something happened on Tuesday.

Third Energy definitely used chemicals or something to cause the smell in the village. You don’t get that smell when you are using clean water, as Third Energy claim.

They said the smell was only on site. How would they know that? They never left the site.

It was told me the workers all felt fine and didn’t wear masks. I said ‘what rubbish’.

Kirby Misperton has now had four gas incidents from that well. The last one, sour gas, was March this year.

We moved into our house in 2006 and in 2007 there was a gas incident from the well. The smell came into the village. We all were out of our houses. We felt sick. The fire service came out and shut the road. I went to stay at my mum’s because the kids were tiny and I was scared to go back into the house. We all got a letter days later saying there was a natural release but because it was foggy it stayed low and we could smell it.

This is why we don’t want fracking and why we don’t trust Third Energy.

We also have no evacuation plan in the village. Third energy say it’s not their job. It’s for the fire service. So, if there’s a gas release no one would know as there’s no evacuation plan.

This was asked at the village meeting and it was passed to the Environment Agency who passed the buck.

Third Energy statement

DrillOrDrop invited Third Energy to comment on this account. The company sent this statement:

“We have been asked to provide further information on an odour reported as coming from the KMA well site on 17 October. Third Energy can confirm that the internal cleaning of water storage tanks with fresh water caused a low level of odour on site. There were no chemicals involved in this exercise.

“About fifteen people were working on the site at the time, including those involved in flushing the tanks, and none of them reported any adverse symptoms. We can clearly state that there were no health and safety issues on site and no leak of any gas.

“A local resident contacted Third Energy to say that they had noticed a smell in the village and wanted to know what might have caused it. As required, this odour complaint was reported to both Ryedale District Council and the Environment Agency.

“The Environment Agency confirmed that it was satisfied with the procedures taken and that no further action was required.”

24/10 Edited to remove a name


71 replies »

  1. Mecaptans = rotten eggs smell
    Hydrogen Sulphide = rotten eggs smell

    Sweet Gas = methane (no smell)
    Sour Gas = methane + hydrogen sulphide + or – mercaptans.

    Mercaptans often added to methane to make it smell (safety)
    Hydrogen sulphide never added (dangerous!)

    cheers, Robin

  2. I would suggest the residents get together and buy a couple of weather stations with a wind vane and anemometer with a built in data logger to place around their houses. Cost about 90 quid off the ‘net. They will then know exactly when the are (and when they were) exactly downwind of the site.

    I’d also advise Third Energy to arrange their air monitoring company to publish (on the assumption that they already have this monitored) the same data so they can contest mendacious claims themselves.

    This story reminds me of a recent C5 “Nightmare Neighbour” programme where an elderly radio ham erected an unsightly aerial mast in his bungalow garden. The neighbours were displeased as it looked ugly, the council was slow to act and eventually a white haired old lady looked at the camera and earnestly claimed the aerial had caused 7 cases of cancer in the pensioner housing around them.
    I think she actually believed it to.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s