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NEWS: Penobsquis residents seek compensation for loss of well water

The CBC reports, “A group of 24 Penobsquis residents is appearing before the province’s mining commissioner on Monday, seeking financial compensation from PotashCorp in a long-standing water dispute. Beth Nixon is a part of the largest group of citizens ever to go before the province’s mining commissioner as the citizens plan to outline how they lost their well water seven years ago. Nixon and 23 other Penobsquis residents say they lost their well water when the PotashCorp began seismetic testing for a new mine. The company supplied water to the affected homes but paid no financial compensation.”

In November 2010, Council of Canadians Atlantic organizer Angela Giles attended a pre-hearing meeting held by the New Brunswick Mining Commissioner in Moncton to hear complaints from Penobsquis residents against the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

“Instead of taking the company to court, the residents will make their case before the mining commissioner, which is a rarely used avenue provided by the Mining Act. …The mining commissioner has the power to award financial compensation to the homeowners. However, the decision can be appealed to the courts.”

“The appearance in front of the mining commissioner is the latest development in the residents’ fight for their water. After their well-water disappeared, the provincial government eventually built a local water system. The Sussex Corner village council was given control of the water system and decided to charge the $400 fee to the Penobsquis residents. The residents appealed that decision to the Energy and Utilities Board. However, the regulatory board said it does not have jurisdiction to regulate water rates.”

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix explained last year, “The problems…started in 2004 when Penobsquis residents started losing water from their wells. Around the same time, PotashCorp confirmed, water started leaking into the mine — a situation referred to as a water inflow. …After about five years of having water delivered to their homes by the province, a new, $9.2 million water system was installed (in 2009) to service the homes, with PotashCorp contributing $1.2 million to the project… Several residents paid to have wells dug at the outset of the water problem, she said, and have also experienced significant damage to their homes as a result of ground subsidence they believe has been caused by the water inflow at the mine. The group wants PotashCorp to compensate them for damages and expenses. …(A regional spokesperson for PotashCorp) stressed independent studies conducted for both PotashCorp and the New Brunswick government never found any direct correlation between Penobsquis wells running dry and potash mining operations.”