Reposted from Coastal Review Online
By Andy Wood
Last of two parts
Just when you thought it was safe to play in the swamp, along comes news about the state’s new mercury study that reminds you that something’s happening out there that we need to think about and work to correct.
I’ve spent much of my life exploring swamps and other aquatic realms and in that time I have come to know a great many interesting plants and animals. While alligators, eagles and other so-called “glamorous megafauna” grab headlines and dominate conservation efforts, I have long been attracted to the smaller beings in the world we share. Tiny crustaceans including dot-sized copepods, daphnia and even mosquito larvae are the things I seek, before I start looking for fishes, frogs, turtles or birds.
I could be equally charmed by protozoans and bacteria, since they inhabit every sample of pond water I examine, but the hand lens I carry can’t discern these tiniest of beings. Bacteria inhabit every ecosystem we have examined, and even though daily life functions require a diverse collection of bacteria inhabiting our body, these “animalcules” as they were first called, are rarely celebrated.
Bacterial activity drives entire ecosystems. Some kinds break down carbon compounds – the remains of once-living organisms– while others are chemical converters, nitrogen cycling for example. Some bacteria cycle chemicals as a metabolic activity required to expel wastes from their cell structure. As an example of this is found in coastal areas, where hydrogen sulfide, a waste product of sulfate-reducing bacteria, can be smelled when carbon-based organic sediments are exposed during low tide. The rotten egg smell is essentially the exhalations of marsh bacteria reducing carbon compounds.
While sulfate bacteria are processing organic compounds in sediments they may also bind up various chemicals, including mercury deposited from the atmosphere. The bacteria don’t necessarily seek out mercury, they simply encounter it. To rid themselves of this unneeded material, bacteria employ metabolic processing to convert the mercury to methylmercury, a chemical compound that bacteria can expel.
Mercury is a naturally-occurring element in the environment, though rarely in high concentrations. The mercury in thermometers and electronic switches is a highly refined product extracted from mercury-containing ores. While elemental mercury is a hazardous material, a more nuanced form, known as methylmercury (CH3Hg), is far more insidious, hazardous, and unfortunately, inside each member of every community across the globe.
Mercury can be found wafting through the atmosphere attached to a water droplet, or adhered to a dust particle. Atmospheric mercury can originate from a volcano, but since we can’t do much about volcanoes, we focus on the mercury pollution generated by burning coal, manufacturing cement from limestone, incinerating medical and other wastes and processing various metals. Atmospheric mercury released from industrial smokestacks may stay aloft for thousands of miles before falling to earth, most likely landing in water.
In its elemental state mercury is unhealthy to higher forms of life, but methylmercury is even more insidious and harmful. Animals exposed to methylmercury, especially during early development stages, may suffer severe neurological damage and other health problems that inhibit full function and vigor. Adult animals are also at risk from methylmercury and none more than aquatic predators high up the food chain.
In the 1980s largemouth bass in North Carolina were included in a mercury advisory that warned people to limit consumption of this fish. The reason for the warning, still in place today, has everything to do with a process called biomagnification. Biomagnification refers to a natural concentration of compounds especially in the tissues of animals that are part of a complex food pyramid.
Picture a pyramid divided by horizontal layers, with each layer representing a step in a food chain. At the bottom of the pyramid we find primary producers known as plants. In the layer above plants are plant eaters. The next layers up are eaters of plant eaters and above them are eaters of eaters of plant eaters, and so-on to the top of the food pyramid; represented in this example by largemouth bass.
Mercury originating from coal combustion is deposited in sediments supporting the base of the food pyramid. Sulfate-reducing bacteria exposed to mercury convert it to methylmercury in order to rid themselves of the metal. Because it accumulates in muscle tissue in the “eat and be eaten” food pyramid, methylmercury is transferred from one organism to the next, magnifying with each level climbed. In this way methylmercury adhered to tiny copepods, daphnia and even mosquito larvae is passed to small fishes including mosquitofish and young sunfish. These in turn are eaten by slightly larger fishes that in their turn are eaten by still bigger fishes including bass, catfish, bowfin and others. This chain of events involving other players is also happening in the world’s ocean; hence the mercury advisories for tuna, swordfish and other so-called apex predators.
The study of methylmercury and its “lifecycle” is interesting and fraught with alarming revelations too important to ignore. So too is the study of the politics involved in regulating the discharge of mercury, the precursor to methylmercury.
When I hear complaints from industry members about the harm regulations put on their business, I am reminded of something a chemical plant manager shared with me many years ago. He said the chemical industry thrives best when it sees pollution as wasted product, and missed profit. In short, environmental protections are conservative measures that support best business practices. And when businesses behave well, communities thrive. It does not work the other way around.
Conservation educators often position a glamorous wild predator to illustrate the apex animal in a food pyramid, be it a shark, lion or bear. In truth, the top of the pyramid is reserved for but one species, and it is us. For this reason, it is in the interest of everyone that we put aside distracting arguments about economic well being and focus instead on the health of the ecosystems that support our economy.
This story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the daily news and feature service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. http://www.nccoast.org/Article.aspx?k=e10f40af-81e1-430d-919c-e41339936c9a#.T7ux3Hvyc-g.facebook
Reposted from Coastal Review Online
By Wade Rawlins
First of two parts
State environmental officials say the state needs to reduce mercury levels by 67 percent by 2016 to protect North Carolina’s waters from mercury contamination, make fish safe to eat and ultimately lift the fish consumption advisories.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and reduction efforts are already underway. Unfortunately much of the mercury that contaminates the state’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters comes from power plants and sources in other states and even other countries, state officials say.
“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Kathy Stecker of the N.C. Division of Water Quality. “It’s a global problem. It’s not just a North Carolina problem. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to work on it.”
The state currently lists all water bodies in the state as contaminated by mercury. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is drafting a plan to quantify sources of mercury such as power plants and sewage treatment plants and propose steps to reduce mercury in North Carolina waterways. Having such a plan will make it easier to press other states that contribute to North Carolina’s pollution problem to cut mercury pollution, officials say.
As part of the process, state officials are developing an estimate of the maximum daily amount of mercury that waters may absorb without contaminating fish and posing a threat to humans. It’s known as a total maximum daily load, or TMDL, and it sets a target for reducing mercury. A public meeting is scheduled Wednesday in New Bern on the plan.
Coast Most Affected
“We see in Eastern North Carolina some of the highest mercury levels in the nation,” said Derek Aday, an ecologist at N.C State University who has done research on mercury deposition and affected fish. “It’s really variable from water system to system.”
Aday said the eastern portion of the state tends to have swamps and peaty, acidic soils that promote the formation of methylmercury, the toxic form that can build up in the tissue of fish and wildlife.
People in coastal North Carolina are exposed to mercury primarily by eating fish that contain methylmercury, a neurotoxin and can damage developing fetuses. Statewide health advisories warn about limiting consumption or avoiding certain species of freshwater and ocean fish that commonly have high levels of mercury.
The advisories warn that women of childbearing age, pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid eating certain types of fish known to be high in mercury. Other people should limit consumption of these types of fish to no more than one meal a week.
Fish species vary greatly in the amounts of mercury they contain. The amount of mercury in fish depends on what the fish eat and how long they live. As a rule of thumb, longer-lived and larger predator fish, which devour smaller fish, typically accumulate higher levels of mercury in their tissues. Among saltwater fish listed as high in mercury are cobia, grouper, gag, king mackerel, greater amberjack, orange roughy, Spanish mackerel, shark, swordfish and albacore tuna.
Fish With High Levels
In recently published research, Aday and colleagues tested mercury levels in six commonly consumed fish caught by commercial and recreational fishermen in North Carolina. They found that king mackerel had the highest mercury concentrations. Grouper and wahoo also had high levels, while mahi mahi and triggerfish had the lowest levels.
Tests also have revealed high levels of mercury in freshwater fish such as black crappie caught east of Interstate 95 and in blackfish, catfish, chain pickerel and yellow fish caught east of Interstate 85, according to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
While largemouth bass caught throughout North Carolina have shown high levels of mercury, most of the high mercury concentrations occur in the eastern part of the state in the Cape Fear, Pasquotank, Lumber and Tar-Pamlico river basins. The highest mercury concentrations have been found in largemouth bass in the Lumber River basin.
If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves the state’s mercury reduction plan, it could affect private industries that operate their own wastewater treatment plants —some of which have high levels of mercury in treated wastewater. They would be required to develop plans to minimize the discharge of mercury. But wastewater plants represent only about 2 percent of the overall mercury released in the state.
“There seems to be some kind of misunderstanding that we are only targeting wastewater plants,” Stecker said. “The reduction we are looking for is the same reduction as from the other source we identify. We are not asking them to get any more of a reduction than their fair share. “
Coal Burning and Mercury
Most of the mercury getting into the water and fish comes from airborne emissions. When power plants burn coal to generate electricity, the combustion releases mercury into the air. Coal-burning power plants are the largest source of mercury in the United States, according to the EPA. They account for more than half of mercury emissions.
Mercury in the air eventually settles into bodies of water or on land, where rain can wash it into the water. Microorganisms in the soil convert the mercury into methylmercury, a toxic form that builds up in fish and shellfish.
According to the state, power plants, steel mills and incinerators spewed approximately 5,300 pounds of mercury into the air in North Carolina in 2002, a year used as a baseline for measuring mercury. Two-thirds of the mercury came from coal-burning power plants operated by Duke Energy and Progress Energy.
Tom Mather, a spokesman for the N.C. Division of Air Quality, said the state anticipates additional reductions in mercury from the closure of some smaller coal burning plants and tighter federal regulations on industrial boilers. Mather said state computer estimates that only 16 percent of the mercury in the state comes from power plants and factories within the state. Most of the airborne mercury wafts into the state on wind currents blown from other states and even other countries.
“We’ve done a lot to reduce mercury emissions in North Carolina, and we expect further reductions,” Mather said. “But there is only so much we can do here if only 16 percent of our mercury is coming from sources within North Carolina.”
The Division of Air Quality has drawn up a list of options for achieving additional cuts in mercury air emissions. They include:
- Filing a legal petition to seek reductions in mercury emission from utilities outside North Carolina
- Setting a cap on statewide mercury emissions
- Reviewing industrial facilities’ pollution control technologies that would increase mercury emissions on a case-by-case basis
This story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the daily news and feature service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. http://www.nccoast.org/Article.aspx?k=43c83f96-0a62-4388-97e3-b6677333f371
MOREHEAD CITY – A delegation from Potash Corp. met with representatives of the Clean County Coalition on Wednesday, Aug. 31, to discuss the company’s intentions at the State Port here. The two-hour discussion covered a range of issues surrounding the company’s options for transshipping and storing dry sulfur as well as Carteret County’s interest in maintaining an environment conducive to its tourism-based economy.
Representing Potash Corp’s PCS Phosphate Aurora division were Steven A. Beckel, general manager, Michelle C. Vaught, manager of public affairs, George House, outside counsel for environmental affairs, and Jason T. Sanders, an environmental consultant.
The Coalition was represented by John Nelson, president, Leigh Johnson, vice president, and several steering committee members.
Acknowledging that the company had “misjudged the public reaction” to its earlier plan to build a sulfur re-melting plant at the port, Beckel and House offered a commitment to complete transparency around the company’s intentions from now on.
They said that, of various options for meeting the Aurora operation’s sulfur needs, they favored one that would entail importing formed solid sulfur to Morehead City, storing it in a new building adjoining the present A-frame warehouses on the north side of the Port, and reloading it on barges to a re-melting plant in Aurora. No expansion would take place at the company’s Radio Island terminal.
According to PCS, the enclosed storage would be a first in an industry that typically stores sulfur in open piles.
The company and the Coalition representatives tentatively agreed on the following points:
- PCS will underwrite the cost of hiring an independent environmental analyst to evaluate the company’s plans for sulfur operations at the Morehead port. The consultant is to be selected by the Coalition subject to the company’s concurrence;
- Some local residents will have the opportunity to inspect an existing sulfur facility at the company’s expense;
- All PCS plans involving the Morehead City Port will be well-publicized and transparent, including meetings with local and state officials and various interest groups.
The PCS presentation to the Clean County Coalition was preceded by a similar meeting with some local officials and other interested persons on Tuesday. That meeting was not publicized.
For further information, contact:
John Nelson, Coalition president
Leigh Johnson, vice-president
Story from witn.com. Updated: 8:04 PM Jul 28, 2011
PCS Phosphate says it is re-evaluating its entire sulfur project at the Morehead City State Port, including whether to store sulfur pellets.
Wednesday, Governor Beverly Perdue announced PCS had abandoned its plans to build a controversial sulfur melting plant at the port. But an Associated Press story said PCS was still going ahead with plans for sulfur pellet storage facilities at the port with bins 150 feet high. That angered many opponents who felt the governor wasn’t giving them the full story.
Thursday in Havelock Perdue told reporters she was surprised to hear there has been discussions of the pellets. She says as far as she knows there is no proposal for pellets at this point in time.
In an email to WITN News, PCS says they are now re-evaluating all of their options, including the location of the storage pellet facility. Public relations manager Michelle Vaught says they anticipate any storage facility that is eventually built would be far less than 150 feet high.
As for the Associated Press story yesterday, the AP tells WITN that the details in that report were provided by a member of the governor’s communications staff. WITN obtained that email which included several talking points about the pellets: “PCS also has a plan to bring dry sulfur pellets and store them at the port.” and “If that plan ultimately goes forward, PCS has already agreed to rework their plans to make sure that no sulfur storage building will exceed 150 feet in height.”
Meanwhile, the Clean County Coalition has apologized to the governor. “I sincerely apologize to the Governor for calling her a liar,” said coalition president John Nelson. Nelson said he received a phone call today from Perdue’s senior adviser who reassured him there were no plans to build a sulfur pellet storage facility at the port.
By Bluegrass Blue Crab, on July 24th, 2011
We’re continuing to dig through the permits and background pertaining to the recent revelation the PCS Phosphate has nearly completed the permitting process for a new sulfur processing plant at the Morehead City Port. The most apparent environmental and health impact of sulfur processing is noxious chemical emission and a pervasive rotten egg smell from hydrogen sulfide. According to PCS Phosphate’s Environmental Assessment: “Based on assessments of the preliminary design of the project, there will be no adverse air quality impacts associated with the project.”
By Southern Fried Scientist, on July 21st, 2011
The news caught us by surprise. PCS Phospate, a division of Potash Corp. and one of the largest suppliers of fertilizer in the world is planing to build a Sulfur processing plant in Morehead City. Seemingly overnight, it had grown from a few rumors to an announcement that the final permitting and funding process was already underway.
By: Jim Niedelman
Published: July 19, 2011
MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. – Hundreds of people in Carteret County have their sights set on stopping corporate giant PCS Phosphate.
They’re upset about plans to build a sulfur melting plant at Port of Morehead City. They brought their concerns to the table Tuesday night as part of a grassroots campaign that has a lot of ground to make up.
This letter from Neal Littman was also featured in The Compass News 360:
Sulfur plant hits bump
Posted Thursday, 7/21/2011
PCS thought this project was wired in advance with “key players”. PCS was good at making this project sound like an extension of their existing operations. It is NOT. It is a chemical processing facility new to North Carolina. It smells bad. There are serious health hazards. It is ugly and will have smokestacks towering twice the height of the high rise bridge. How is this good for Carteret County?
When they approached us (Morehead City Yacht Basin) several months ago it was to seek approval for extension of their barge berth on Calico Creek “to improve material handling capacity related to their phosphate business…” We tried to assist PCS in their expansion by discussing the channel limitations and the need to get input from the US Army due to their 175 foot vessels with greater beam than our pleasure boats. We met with the US Army officials, they got the US Army Corps of Engineers involved and we came to a mutual agreement as to the extent of the additional dredging that was needed. At no point during this phase of conversation did PCS mention that they really wanted to construct an industrial chemical facility immediately adjacent toMorehead City Yacht Basin. We found that out when we received on Friday, July 1st (the start of the July 4th weekend) a very cryptic notice regarding a PCS Phosphate application for modification of an existing CAMA permit. It was impossible to tell from the notice what the scope of the proposed project would be. I contacted the PCS Phosphate Senior Scientist to request a copy of the Environmental Assessment, as is our right. He emailed a copy to me. It was only then that I understood that PCS and the State Port were proposing a new industrial chemical factory. We had subsequent conversations with their Senior Scientist and the PCS Director of Environmental Compliance. Jet Matthews and I were on a conference call with the PCS officials and we learned that this process was new to PCS and new to the region and no, PCS had never operated any similar facility, but that they did have experience handling molten sulfur here at the State Port and at Aurora, NC.
Molten sulfur is a different form of sulfur than what they are proposing to process. PCS wants to purchase sulfur in its dry form and have it transported to the MC State Port in bulk cargo ships (much cheaper than buying the molten sulfur, which is commonly a by product of refining petroleum) and then convert it to its molten state. This “phase change” or change in the state of the element sulfur is what creates value for PCS. For PCS, the minimum net operating profit per ton for changing the form of sulfur from the dry state into the molten state is about $120 and may be as high as $600 per ton. Since they are building sulfur melters with a daily capacity of 5,000 tons, this gives them a potential net operating income of $600,000 per day on the low side and up to $3,000,000 per day one the upper end. This is before amortizing the cost of the chemical factory, but that can be done with a small part of the income stream generated by the sulfur chemical plant. Serious value is created by changing the state of the material. PCS will not easily give up that money. Just do a Google search for “cost of sulfur” and you will gain greater understanding about the economic incentives for PCS. They are considerable. What does Carteret County get? Nothing… Actually, worse than nothing. Bad smells, pollution, a considerable reduction in the tax base due to much lower property values.
Sulfur dust in its dry form is explosive. They will be moving it around the State Port on conveyor belts. At each “transfer point” PCS says it will provide dust control by wetting down the dry sulfur so that the dust does not build up and become explosive. Sulfur dust will be generated by every movement of the pelletized material throughout the State Port. The conveyor system cannot be made “air tight” as it has to allow for the venting of the hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide gases that are naturally formed when sulfur is in contact with oxygen. Great. Some of the sulfur smells escape to the atmosphere, no matter what they do. Some sulfuric acid is formed, no matter what they do. PCS has considerable experience with accidents causing explosions and fires from sulfur dust. Numerous examples exist at Aurora of fires caused by train wheel contact with rails that have a dusting of sulfur… The worst industrial accident in North Carolina in the last century was caused by dust at the West Pharmaceuticals factory in Kinston. Similarly, Georgia’s worst industrial accident was caused by dust in a sugar refining facility. A lot of dust will escape from the State Port. It is much finer than the dust from the wood chip operation at the State Port and we have to deal with that debris every day in Eastern Morehead City. It is a danger. How does the State Port plan to prevent explosive dust from detonating the PETN explosives that the State Port periodically has present… and has spilled? How can the State Portsegregate the fire hazards of the chemical factory and the wood chip operation? Does anybody at the State Port have a clue about protecting the neighbors and the larger community? We see no evidence of that in practice on a daily basis.
Air quality is addressed by trying to get this project in place before the US EPA implementation of much more restrictive sulfur rules (which become effective on 1/1/2013) and by gaming how the airborne pollutants are measured. To achieve the even the lower standards now required, PCS design engineers measure the air concentration of pollutants at ground level at the fence line or boundary of the property and they discharge the airborne pollutants from the top of a smokestack that is 150 feet high! The Morehead City-Beaufort High Rise Bridge is only about 75 feet high! The PCS workers will all have to wear an electronic sniffer or chemical sensor that sounds an alarm if it detects the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas (which can very quickly kill a worker). We have people sleeping on boats less than 150 feet from the boundary of the proposed industrial chemical factory. They don’t have sniffers. In the PCS plan, no one outside the boundary of the property counts. Tough. You had your chance to object. One of the more ludicrous aspects of the “scrubber and air filtration equipment to reduce air pollution is that the design standards call for meeting the discharge criteria for reducing harmful discharges beginning three hours after the start up of the chemical factory and end three hours before the factory shutdown. If the system is started and stopped once each day it means that for six hours of the operation PCS can legally exceed the permit discharge limits. The same air quality official who approved the PCS air quality permit for NC DENR told us that the State Port has in operation a very effective dust supression system for the wood chip operation, including sparyers, containment and more. We looked out the window and let him know that it was not operating today, yesterday, last week or last month and that he should come look at it. He mumbled something about not having travel money. We perhaps could relocate his desk to the boundary of the State Port property… Remember, you can smell this PCS sulfur in concentrations about 1/20th of the maximum allowable concentration they now have under the terms of the air quality permit already granted.
“This project is a great economic boon for the area and PCS is going to spend $80 million, no $85 million no, $90 million on this project.” The facts are:
(a) that the vast majority of that money flows to suppliers of specialty items and contractors from far outside Carteret County;
(b) that PCS does not pay any taxes at all to Morehead City or Carteret County (never has and will not in the future). You see, the State Port just leases the property to PCS and PCS pays “fees” to the State Port and as a State Agency the State Port pays no taxes. Local governments just have to provide emergency services, water and sewer and the rest of the taxpayers absorb the cost; and
(c) very few additional employees are needed to operate the facility. Our one business will lose more employees and contractors and vendors than PCS will be hiring due to people relocating their boats to more pleasant communities. It is easy to untie the docklines and sail away. What about all of the other businesses in the community?
(d) If this industrial chemical project is finally approved, property values in the community will plummet and vibrant downtown business will be a thing of the past. Even if the value of the PCS project was $200 million and they were going to spend half of it here in Carteret County, it would be a small fraction of the cumulative damage to the value of property in our communities. It adds nothing to and instead will take away a great deal of money from the tax base. We have already begun seeing people put their plans on hold! Please tell us how this particular “economic development project” is in any way a good thing for Carteret County!
The important elements of this proposed project are:
1. There would be significant discharges to the air of sulfur dust, the gaseous forms of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide and lesser discharges of other toxic and non toxic gases. Significant quantities of sufuric acid are produced in this planned industrial chemical plant which will end up in the waters of our area after being airborne and causing significant increased corrosion rates, injury to flora and fauna as well as terribly complicating respiratory problems in humans.
2. The quantities of gases that PCS says they will discharge is interpreted by humans as a very nasty smell. It really is the smell of rotten eggs and worse. Noxious smells have the worst possible effect on tourism, property values and quality of life. No other factor even comes close in industrial communities.
3. There is a considerable net loss of jobs, not a net gain due to the harmful effects of the chemical factory. PCS has never before done this chemical process and cannot cite a single similar facility where this same method is used. They claim it is safe though. They have had accidents before and no mechanical system works all of the time. The last major PCS accident at the State Port was when their ship crashed into the railroad bridge in theMorehead City turning basin. The railroad bridge was out of commission for many weeks. The probabilities of an accident are quite high given the dangers involved. PCS has exactly zero experience operating this type of facility!
4. Our area depends on good water and air quality. We will lose that. For what? This PCS chemical factory is not economic development, it is an economic and ecological disaster for Carteret County.
When was the last time Beaufort and Morehead City had unanimous votes about anything? They have about this very stinky project. It is smelly, both literally and figuratively and is very close to final approval!
We have to keep trying to get people to read and understand what PCS itself has to say about its own design in the plans and environmental assessment.
Again, please let me know why this is a good idea!
MOREHEAD CITY — Surprise news of a proposed sulfur facility to be built at the state port in Morehead City has been a flashback to 10 years ago for many Carteret County residents.
Citizens opposed then to the prospect of a liquefied natural gas facility being developed on port property Radio Island joined with Carteret Citizens Allied to Protect the Environment and dug in for a fight.
C-CAPE first formed to keep an ethanol plant off Radio Island and rallied again in 2001 to stop the LNG facility, an effort that proved successful more than a year later when El Paso Merchant Energy Group pulled out of a three-year option to lease the property for the project.
Now a new citizens group is rising in opposition to a sulfur handling and melting facility being proposed by PCS Phosphate.
New Brunswick community action for damages against PotashCorp
“A group of community members in Penobsquis in New Brunswick, where PotashCorp has existing and planned potash mines, has launched an action against the mine for damages relating to lost wells, subsidence, noise, light and dust pollution as well as anxiety. This action is being handled through the New Brunswick Mining Commissioner.”- Carteret County News-Times Editorial 7/17/2011
(Sussex, NB) On Monday, March 14th, 26 residents of Penobsquis begin a two-week battle to prove Potash Corporation stole their water and ruined their lives.
Shortly after water began flooding the potash mine and PotashCorp and Corridor Resources completed rounds of seismic testing, about 60 homes in the area lost their drinking water supply. For five years, from 2004 to 2009, people in the community were supplied with water while they fought and waited for a new community water system.
Affected members of the community believe that it is ultimately the inflow of 1,300 gallons of water per minute into the Potash mine, and its subsequent removal by pipeline and trucking, that has resulted in the loss of their well water; the subsidence (the sinking of land and buildings) that is now affecting their homes; and the stress and grief they endure every day.
In true David versus Goliath fashion, the citizens will attempt to prove PotashCorp’s responsibility and seek damages for water loss, property subsidence, suffering as a result of dust, noise and light pollution, lost property values, and stress. Potash Corp continues to deny any responsibility, their lawyer challenging the group of citizens to “prove it”, at the recent prehearing in November.
“This is a tragic situation,” says Stephanie Merrill, CCNB’s Freshwater Protection Coordinator. “These residents of Penobsquis are just trying to live their lives and are now forced to pay the burden and the cost of proving a large powerful corporation has taken away their water, ruined their properties and their quality of life. The cards are stacked against them and our government has not required the company to take any responsibility”, says Merrill.
CCNB supports them, and their battle, as do many other community organizations in New Brunswick, the Atlantic Region and across Canada.
Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator at MiningWatch Canada, based in Ottawa, commends and supports the citizens of Penobsquis in their fight against PotashCorp. “The company, which is making huge profits off of public resources, must be held accountable for the social, economic and ecological impacts of its operation,” says Hart.
The Hearing starts today, Monday March 14th, and will take place the weeks of March 14 and March 28th, beginning 9am daily at the All Seasons Inn, Sussex.
The Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis are supported by:
Belledune Citizens Committee; Campaign for Pesticide Reduction; Conservation Council of New Brunswick; Falls Brook Centre; Friends of Mount Carleton Provincial Park; Grand Lake Watershed Guardians; MiningWatch Canada; PANE – for a new perspective on energy; Quality of Life Initiative; Saint John Chapter, Council of Canadians; Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter; Students for Sustainability; Sustainable Energy Group (SEG) in Woodstock.
Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Coordinator, CCNB: (506) 458-8747 or (506) 261-8317
Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada: (613) 614-9937 or (613) 569-3439
Herman Hawthorne, Spokesperson, Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis: (506) 433-3049
More Info: A busy summer of organizing: Penobsquis residents testify at hearings and fundraise (Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis)