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Couple complain of noise 'torture' from oil refinery steam leak

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Jack and Christine Frost in their garden in Holbury near the oil refinery
Jack and Christine Frost in their garden in Holbury near the oil refinery

A COUPLE living near Fawley’s oil refinery say their lives are being made a misery because of an energy plant which emits a constant rumbling noise.

Christine and Jack Frost have spent years creating a dream garden at their home in Long Lane Close, Holbury - but say they are being forced inside because of a production plant at ExxonMobil’s site, which they believe is causing the noise because of a steam leak.

Christine told the A&T that when they first bought the property around 10 years ago, there was no issue.

She said: “We knew there would be some noise and we knew about the refinery as we've lived in the area a long time and I worked there when I was in my 20s.

"But this is like torture."

She added: “I don't cope with it very well and sometimes it has driven me indoors.”

The problem has been ongoing for almost two years, but they say it has become unbearable in the last six months.

Christine added: “I like to sleep with the window open when it's warm, but even in the winter you can still hear it. It's 24/7, seven days a week.”

Jack has installed an app on his phone to monitor the decibel levels in his garden, which shows it regularly reaches 60 during the daytime.

Fawley oil refinery
Fawley oil refinery

He said: “It sounds like being at Heathrow to me. The bottom line is their production is causing a lot of distress and noise pollution for thousands of people living nearby.”

The couple regularly contact the refinery to complain but feel they are getting fobbed off with excuses about the noise.

They say they have been told the cogeneration plant is in need of repairs to stop the escaping steam, but to do so would mean halting the production line.

Cogeneration technology captures heat generated from the production of electricity for use in production, refining and chemical processing operations. Due to its inherent energy efficiency, the use of cogeneration leads to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The couple have also contacted the Environment Agency about the noise pollution and were told to keep a log of incidents.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware of noise issues at Fawley refinery due to ongoing unplanned maintenance works at the site.

“We are in discussions with the operator following complaints from the community regarding the issue. We have recently met some members of the community to understand their concerns.

“As regulators of the refinery we have sought assurances from the operator that the essential repairs on site will be carried out as soon as possible and with minimal disturbance to the local community.”

The spokesman added that a condition within the refinery’s environmental permit requires it to adhere to a noise management plan to ensure that all appropriate measures are used to mitigate noise resulting from operations.

An NFDC spokesperson confirmed it had also received complaints, but had to refer residents to the Environment Agency as the regulatory body.

The refinery is the largest in the UK and one of the most complex in Europe. Its chemical plant produces approximately 750,000 tonnes of products every year.

A spokesperson for ExxonMobil told the A&T: “We apologise to our neighbours in Holbury for any inconvenience caused by our operations. We investigate all complaints received and recently shut down one of our units to fix a steam leak that has reduced noise levels.

“We are scrutinising our operations further to understand whether there are additional measures we can employ to reduce noise.”

The spokesperson added: “The Environment Agency is aware of our actions and we will continue to keep them abreast of developments.

"We are already in communication with several neighbours living in Holbury and would ask that residents report any issues or complaints about our site directly to us on 023 8089 2511."

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