Coal miners used to carry caged canaries with them down underground as a way to be alerted to leaks of dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide in the mine shaft. The gases would kill the canary before killing the miners. Penobsquis residents feel like they are the canaries in the potash mine and gasfield. Penobsquis residents say they are a warning of the dangers associated with potash mining and shale gas development at a time when the government of New Brunswick is promoting expansion of those industries in the province.
Twenty-six residents of the rural community of Penobsquis are claiming that PotashCorp is responsible for the loss of 60 water wells, land subsidence (the sinking of land) that is now affecting their homes, dust, noise and light pollution, loss of property values and the stress and grief they endure every day. They are taking their case to the Mining Commissioner and asking for compensation. The hearings before the Mining Commissioner, which started in the spring of 2011, are ongoing. The Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis, representing themselves at the hearings, are going up against PotashCorp’s lawyer.
The Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis say that the wells were lost at the same time that PotashCorp was conducting a round of seismic testing (the same process many communities are facing from the oil/gas industry). Residents reported hearing and seeing the blasts that are a part of the seismic testing, and noticing dirty water, or total loss of water not long afterwards.
According to the Concerned Citizens of Penbosquis, “New Brunswickers have been learning about how industry and government have been treating residents of Penobsquis – homes sinking, land sliding, water lost, air threatened, and lives ruined. We’ve been learning that when big industry sets up in New Brunswick, the community sacrifices and does not get compensated. Our provincial government has not been standing up for New Brunswickers.”
“When I was 7, I used to have to go down to the spring to get water for the family. Now, 60 years later, I go to a store to get good drinking water. Is that progress? I used to have good water that came out of my tap,” said Herman Hawthorne, a resident of Penobsquis.
A film about Penbosquis called, Be… Without Water?, will screen at Cinema Politica Fredericton at 7:00 p.m. on March 23rd at Conserver House (180 Saint John Street). The film is by Rob Turgeon.
For updates on the hearings and more information on Penobsquis, visit the website: penobsquis.ca or Facebook group: Support Penobsquis.