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Peak Cavern - Titan Update
Report From: Dave Nixon.
Report Date: 20/03/1999.
Published: 20/03/1999.

The climb up The Western Wall has reached a point 130m above the floor with the roof still some 20m above. At the 120m level a large passage, 3m wide and 4m high was entered, unfortunatly ending in a boulder choke after only 15m. With the passage heading West and draughting strongly it looks promising, attention will be focused here if there are no open leads higher up. From the entrance of the passage a free hanging rope can be rigged providing a single 120m (390ft) pitch. 20 to 30m above, the roof takes the form of a huge dome and right out in the middle of it an aven can be seen continuing up. Friday's trip took 12 hours to complete and involved 625m (2050ft) of rope work to get in and out via J.H.

MARLOW Ropes have sponsored the project and generously supplied the ropes to rig Titan.

previous related report 02/1999
next related report 04/1999

Peak District - Flooding
Report From: Shaun Puckering.
Report Date: 03/1999.
Published: 03/1999.

March kicked off with some very heavy rain affecting all active caves. The photo on the right taken on Monday 1st is of the weir at Brough, the point where the waters of Peak Cavern and Bradwell Resurgence meet. Although water levels were not as high as they were during the October 98 flood they brought several projects to a standstill. It has taken a long time but water levels have almost returned to normal (20th March).

The weir at Brough, where the waters of Bagshawe Resurgence and Peak / Speedwell meet.
Photo: Shaun Puckering 03/1999
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Knotlow Cavern / Hillocks Mine - Pollution
Report From: John Gunn, Limestone Research Group, University of Huddersfield.
Report Date: 03/03/1999.
Published: 04/03/1999.

As many Derbyshire cavers will be aware there has been an ongoing problem with water pollution and associated 'bad air' in Knotlow Cavern since the mid-1990's and more recently there have also been reports of 'bad air' in Hillocks. DCA raised the matter with the Environment Agency and, as Knotlow is in the Upper Lathkill SSSI, with English Nature. Suspicion initially fell on sewage works in Flagg and Chelmorten which were discharging to limestone. Tracing experiments by the LRG showed that both were directly connected to Knotlow and steps were taken to eliminate any possible pollution from these sources.

Despite elimination of the sewage works as potential pollution sources reports of problems persisted although some were so vague that it was difficult to establish what the problem was, or even where in the cave. In 1997 DCA placed a notebook in the cave and a request went out for all groups to record pollution incidents. The notes were sent to the LRG in November 1998 and it was found firstly that there are periods when Knotlow is pollution free and others when pollution is reported as being severe and secondly that there appears to be no relationship between weather [as recorded at the Buxton met. Station] and times when pollution is recorded. Unfortunately it has proved difficult to establish the type of pollution [human / agricultural / slurry / silage / etc.] or where it might be coming from. A possible lead has been a reported sighting of a tanker discharging a foul smelling effluent into the 'triangle' near the barn [SK ]. This is still being followed up but a visit by the LRG on 24 February confirmed the presence of effluent at this site. One problem for the Environment Agency has been the lack of unequivocal evidence and in an attempt to obtain this the LRG has been commissioned by English Nature, with support from the Environment Agency, to undertake a detailed environmental survey of Knotlow, collecting water and sediment samples from locations where pollution has been recorded using an agreed protocol.

The first survey was undertaken by John Gunn and Dave Nixon on 24 February 1999. The majority of sites where pollution has been recorded in the log book were visited, the only exception being the far reaches of the Bung Series. A visit to this area was considered unnecessary as a strong draft was blowing out through the Bung and had any pollution been present deeper in the series it would have been obvious at this point. Concentrations of oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane in air were recorded continuously using a Status Mentor Three Gas Monitor The oxygen concentration varied from 20.7 to 21.1%; hydrogen sulphide was zero throughout and methane was zero at all sites except, very briefly, in the level between Crimbo (Fourways) Hollow Engine Shaft and the Engine Shaft (see below).

One litre water samples were collected from the following sites:

S1 - Percolation water, Pearl Chamber, close to the fallen P anchor!
S2 - Stream which enters Waterfall Chamber from the East
S3 - Stream emerging from boulders just before ‘The Bung’
S4 - Small trickle rising near top of Waterfall Pitch
S5 - Stream from ‘Engine Shaft’ just before the rock pile at the foot of ‘Crimbo Hollow Engine Shaft’
S6 - Stream from ‘Engine Shaft’ at foot of shaft
S7 - Stream in Chapel dale Level
S8 - Stream from Crimbo Pipe just upstream of junction with ‘main’ stream

The water samples are being analysed by the Environment Agency for: Conductivity, BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), Ammonia, Chloride, Nitrate and Nitrite.

The only site at which there was any visual evidence of possible pollution was the level between Crimbo (Fourways) Shaft and the Engine Shaft where series of red / pink growths were observed on top of sediment but beneath the water. When the sediment was disturbed air bubbles broke the surface and there was an 'organic' smell. The gas monitor recorded a small increase in methane (to c. 0.15%) for a short period but levels of oxygen remained unchanged and hydrogen sulphide was not recorded. A sample of the pink growth and samples of sediment were recovered for analysis.

The survey has shown that, as of 24th February, there are no problems with 'bad air' anywhere in Knotlow and, apart from the growths, no visual evidence of water pollution. This provides a 'benchmark' against which any future pollution can be assessed. In order to do this, the LRG have been retained by English Nature to provide a 'rapid response' capability whereby we will visit the site as soon as possible after a report of pollution and repeat the air, sediment and water sampling. Your help is needed. It is vitally important that anyone visiting Knotlow or Hillocks provides information on the presence of pollution, or its absence [it is as important to know that there was no pollution at a particular time as it is to know that there is a problem]. Please provide information in the log book on when, where and what. Try to be as precise as possible and please give a contact name / phone number which saves time when we try to follow up reports. Immediately after the trip please report any pollution, or other relevant observations either direct to the LRG (John Gunn or Paul Hardwick, 01484 472543; j.gunn@hud.ac.uk) or via a DCA officer (Tony Gibbs, Pete Mellors, Jenny Potts or Bob Dearman). English Nature, the Environment Agency and the LRG are doing everything they can to determine where the pollution is coming from and to stop it; with the help of the caving community I am sure we can succeed.

next related report 08/1999

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