THE correspondence between Devon County County and Carillion – all 642 pages of it – makes grim reading.
Of most serious concern is the revelation that a member of staff at Carillion falsified a document relating to concentrations of iron found in the water supply at Exeter's St Peter's school.
The document read that only 184 micrograms per litre of iron was found in the supply, when in fact 1,840 was found, almost 10 times over the legal limit of 200.
The last number was simply erased from the figure, to make out it was a safe reading.
The company, which has been running services at Exeter's secondary schools since they were built under a PFI agreement six years ago, said one member of staff was involved and acted alone. The employee has since retired.
Although it claims no pupils or staff members were at any risk, Devon County Council was furious when its staff uncovered the falsified reading.
In a letter dated March 1 to Modern Schools Exeter Limited (MSEL), the company set up to oversee the running of secondary schools – which has Carillion as its main contractor – Jan Shadbolt, Devon's County Solicitor, said: "I explained at the start of my letter that we have to date worked co-operatively with MSEL and we are grateful for the time and effort that you have put into dealing with this matter.
"However, as I have already said, both the council and the schools have simply lost confidence in Carillion and you will I am sure appreciate why that is the case.
"A senior manager has admitted to falsifying a certificate and subsequent information received from the consultants you have engaged points to failings by Carillion. Allied to this is our own assessment of Carillion from our direct dealings with them in recent weeks.
"In view of this the council wants to hear from you as a matter of urgency as to what you are proposing to do regarding Carillion's employment as your sub-contractor.
"In our view their position has become increasingly untenable and it is frankly difficult to see how, after the significant issues that have been discovered and/or arisen following the discovery of the falsified certificate, that confidence in their ability to undertake their tasks at the schools can ever be restored."
Correspondence sent to MSEL about Carillion becomes increasingly fraught as the months go on and the problems with water – particularly at West Exe, where Legionella bacteria is discovered – continue.
The school has not been able to use its own water supply for months, and bottled water is provided for drinking. The school's showers remain out of use.
The county council pleads with Carillion to replace all of the pipe work at West Exe, something the contractor seems reluctant to do.
The county insists that all water problems, in all schools, must be sorted out by September 1, in time for the new school year. It's a deadline which ran out at the start of this week.
In a letter dated May 14, the increasingly frustrated county solicitor writes: "Whilst we accept that a process has to be followed we are extremely concerned about the length of time it is taking to complete.
"Our position is that by the start of the autumn term, so by 1 September 2013, the water issues across the six schools must be completely resolved so that the water is safe to drink and can otherwise be used in accordance with the requirements at each school.
"Anything short of that will be completely unacceptable to the council."
As tests continue, the council still does not have assurances that the problems have been sorted out.
In response Ken Cassidy, general manager of MSEL, wrote: "With regard to the works to remove the legionella bacteria from the West Exe system, this has also taken a longer period of time that has left us all feeling very frustrated with perceived progress.
"MSEL recently engaged a specialist water hygiene company through AECOM to advise if the extent and period of the works undertaken was appropriate. They have commented that they believe this to be the case and that they feel it is not unusual for eradication of legionella to take some months and to be resistant to various attempts to remove it."
He said initial chlorination works and other attempts to solve the issue ended up only spreading the problem and making it 'in effect worse before it could be resolved'.
He added: "Clearly this was not fully expected by any of us that were engaged in managing the incident, either on behalf of MSEL or DCC, and therefore this has again contributed to our growing frustration."
In a letter to MESL dated July 11 2013, the county solicitor is furious that Carillion has been "shock dosing" the system repeatedly at West Exe with hydrogen peroxide.
The letter states: "It seems the purpose of this is to try to ensure that the next set of sampling produces a low number of positive legionella counts or none at all. Whilst Carillion has drawn up a plan for pipe replacement, the indications are that Carillion will not implement this plan unless the next sampling (the results of which are due on Friday) show a significant number of positives.
"Our view is that the shock dosing, done incidentally without our advance agreement and without any form of risk assessment undertaken, was inappropriate and is very likely to result in a "chemically masked" set of results which cannot be relied upon.
"At the meeting to which you attended, you will be aware that the head of the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), Professor Colbourne, agrees with our assessment that the focus on chemical treatment was inappropriate and that the samples taken after such dosing are not be relied upon. We were led to believe, by Carillion, that they had sought approval from the DWI that they were taking this action but this seems not to be the case.
"I am, frankly, appalled by Carillion's approach and urge you to instruct them to undertake the pipe replacement programme across the whole of the school.
"You have told us that money is not an issue and so we fail to see why the pipe replacement programme should not go ahead during the summer."
It adds: "I have no doubt that if the MSEL and Carillion fail to address these issues before September 1 it will be a public relations disaster for both companies."
In a letter dated July 31, Rob Parkhouse, head of business strategy and support and the county council, writes directly to Carillion chief executive Richard Howson about the school water problems, and suggests it could have affected exam results.
He wrote: "The disruption across the schools has been a significant issue, in particular at West Exe, where the school has had to abandon science experiments and other curriculum activities. This disruption could have a detrimental effect on year 10 examination results.
"Were that to be the case, it would be extremely worrying from a reputation point of view for both West Exe and Devon County Council.
"It is completely unacceptable that schools that were built a little over six years ago should be facing such extraordinary difficulties in terms of their water supply."
In response Robert Holt, of Carillion, reveals that the massive cost attempts to sort out the problem have cost Carillion.
He wrote: "I share your concern at the continued presence of legionella in the water system at West Exe; however, in dealing with this issue, at all times the risk to human health has been paramount and no-one, staff and student included, has been put at risk."
He added: "I want to make clear that notwithstanding the significant costs we have incurred to date – almost £1,000,000 and counting, you have Carillion's continuing assurance at the highest levels that the safety of the staff and pupils will always be paramount."