Citizens continue water fight without lawyer
A group of Penobsquis residents are again appearing in front of New Brunswick's mining commissioner Wednesday seeking financial compensation from PotashCorp in a water dispute.
The mining commissioner’s hearing is being held in Sussex.
The 25 Penobsquis residents say they lost their well water several years ago when the PotashCorp began seismic testing for a new mine in the southern New Brunswick community.
The company supplied water to the affected homes but paid no financial compensation to those residents.
Instead of taking the company to court, the residents opted to take their case to the province's 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 citizens are appearing for the first time without legal representation.
They dismissed their lawyers midway through the hearings.
"We feel that we’ve been treated very wrongly and to be able to ask questions to people that have done this to us is something we want to do," said Beth Nixon, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis.
Legal bills adding up
Nixon said money was also a concern.
"It’s expensive to have lawyers. At the core of it, I don’t think it was a financial issue," she told CBC News Wednesday.
Since the hearings began last November, environmental lawyer Michel DesNeiges has handled the case, laying out the problem the people have had since seismic testing began in 2004.
Several witnesses testified that they had lost their well water, found that their land was shifting and discovered sinkholes on their properties.
Now without their lawyer, they have to summon witnesses and conduct cross examinations.
"It’s going to be interesting how things proceed. I think the mining commissioner, as we have seen today, is committed to helping us walk through the proceedings," said Nixon.
Brian Roulston of Potash Corporation said it doesn’t matter who takes the case through the hearing. His company is ready to respond.
"We are looking forward to putting out the facts as we know them to be and countering the complaints that we have heard," said Roulston.
The hearing will resume Oct. 12, nearly a year after it began.