Brenda Lee Morrell told the mining commission that she no longer believes her family's property is safe to farm. ((CBC))

Two Penobsquis residents told New Brunswick's mining commissioner that they are too scared to farm their land after a sinkhole was found on their property.

The two were testifying on Monday at a mining commission hearing into complaints by 26 residents that mining operations by  Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan caused wells to  run dry in the southern New Brunswick community.

For seven generations, the MacLeod family has been growing crops and raising livestock in the Penobsquis area.

Two sisters, Brenda Lee Morrell and Cynthia MacEwan, told the mining hearing on Monday that their traditional lifestyle is in jeopardy.

The sisters said well water disappeared and a large sinkhole was discovered in a hay field in 2008.

Morrell said the sinkhole that appeared on their property is big enough to swallow a small car.  


Morrell said a sinkhole that developed on her land was large enough to fit a small car. ((CBC))

Eventually water partially filled the sinkhole and the family noticed other areas were shifting and sinking.

"We have a meadow that we used to farm. By the time August came Dad always used to get the hay off of it," Morrell said.

"But now you can't get near it - completely underwater. We can't even get to it."

The mining hearing, which is the largest in the province's history, is hearing stories from other Penobsquis residents about the problems they claim started after the company began seismic testing.

Several residents claim they believe PotashCorp's operations have triggered sinkholes and caused their wells to run dry.

Morrell said it's not easy to take on such a big corporation in front of the mining commissioner.

"It's very intimidating I am not used to this. This is not my cup of tea," she said.


The New Brunswick mining commission is in the middle of its longest hearing. ((CBC))

Morrell said she always dreamed of passing on the land to her children, making them the eighth generation to work the land.

But she said that plan is not going to happen now because she said she believes the land is  too dangerous to farm.

The Potash Corporation is not commenting on the Morrell's statements. Instead, the corporation will make its response in the fall.

The hearings are the latest step in a long battle between some Penobsquis residents and PotashCorp.

After their well water disappeared about seven years ago, the provincial government eventually built a local water system for the residents.

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.