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That Sinking Feeling

Penobsquis resident Heather McCabe watches house buckle, bulge, sink

by Miles Howe

Mind the Gap. McCabe's garage door as it begins to buckle. [Photo: Heather McCabe]
Mind the Gap. McCabe's garage door as it begins to buckle. [Photo: Heather McCabe]

Penobsquis, NB - In 2003, when Heather McCabe bought her homestead in Penobsquis, New Brunswick, she thought it would make the perfect sanctuary for special-needs animals. And it did - that is, until her septic pipe rose out of the ground, her walls started to buckle and bulge, and her well went dry.

Indicators pointed to the local potash mine as being the culprit - indeed, over 60 neighbouring wells went dry while the mine was filling with water. Seismic testing by mine owners PotashCorp were originally intended to find out if they were to blame. Instead, the seismic tests found natural gas deposits. So rather than rectifying the situation with homeowners, investments and partnerships were made with oil and gas exploration company Corridor Resources.

Now, in the midst of shifting and sinking topography, Potash Corp and Corridor are using hydraulic fracturing to access shale gas. It is a situation some energy experts call "ludicrous."

To learn more about Heather McCabe's story, listen to the above interview.

For more information on the situation in Penobsquis, visit www.penobsquis.ca 

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Topics: Environment
171 words
bar baz


Check around the Penobsquis area

Subsidence has been an issue in Penobsquis for years and years. On Rt 114 (Fundy Park Rd.) just south of the Route #1 interchange, there was a Tourist Attraction in the 60's and 70's known as The Mystery Crater. They built a House in one of these sinkholes to create optical allusions about someone walking on the sharp edge of a table at a 45 degree angle to the walls. That whole area was sinkhole after sinkhole. My Grandparents were from that area and my Mother and I spent a lot of time with them as my Dad worked away all week on Construction. I do know the area.

I can't say if this is the case with the McCabe home or not, but homes in our area not built on Frost walls or full Basements will move with frost movement every spring and if the subsidence is related to dissolved limestone as opposed to Potash mining, well there is your answer...

As for Hydraulic Fracturing.  All of the wells currently in place at the McCully field are either vertical or angular. Angular meaning the drill bit is moved off the vertical and the bottom hole is offset from the top hole by as much as 1/2 km.  There are no, I repeat NO horizontal drilled wells in the McCully field at this time.  Most of Corridors have been single stage fraced, however some have 2 or 3 multi stage fracs in place. The working depth of the PCS mine is between 1900 and 2300 feet (580-640 meters) whereas most of the McCully wells are in the 1800-2400 meter depth. Can you explain How a 100-500 foot horizontal fracture at those depths will affect land 4X closer to the surface?

I am not employed by PCS or Corridor or any of their contractors or affiliated companies, I am a retired Public Servant without a university education and I have lived in this are my entire 57 years.  Ask locals about issues, not people who move in from away and don't understand what they are dealing with as far as local topography and geology. There is a reason the McCabe house is having issues, but in my opinion it is not resource development or extraction related.

Ed Armstrong

Wards Creek NB

Someone is to

Someone is to blame......whether it be Potash, O&G, Govt of NB(for allowing defective, problematic land to be sold) realty company/previous owners for non-disclosure.  SOMEONE needs to come clean.  It is a disgrace what the families in that area have had to endure.  It is no wonder the common man on the street is disillusioned with govt and big business!  Alward-get your act in gear and take care of this now.

Why is it someone else always

Why is it someone else always has to be the blame? There are two terms that come to mind immediately over your reply, 1. Due Diligence. 2. Buyer Beware.  Due diligence on the part of the land buyer to check out the area for potential risks, that is why 1 should never use the same agent as the seller.  The selling agent can only report on information given to them by the seller, If the agent doesn't know the area they can't ask the right questions. Buyer Beware You need to do your homework as well when locating in an area.. talk to the locals and by locals that is people who have been there all their lives and possible 2nd or 3rd generations as well.

It is not the responsibility for the rest of the world to babysit you, hold your hand and walk you through life protecting you from all hazards.. You need to take responsibility for any and all actions you take in life.

While I am also from away, so

While I am also from away, so am clearly not qualified to speak on anything, I think that we should remember the context here. There appears to be a whole lot of people in the community being affected by this, and a whole lot of action from concerned citizens going on. Ed, you're not suggesting that the general worry over sinking houses and drying wells is just Heather McCabe being swindled by some real estate agent, are you? I've only been in Halifax for under two years, so again, I shouldn't be listened to. I'm just trying to learn from locals is all.

No, I most certainly am not,

No, I most certainly am not, what I am saying is the people of the area know what is going on around them and if there wern't houses built on the properties 30 years ago that were off the main roads, there was probably good reason for it. But what I know of the area if you don't have that full 6-8 ft frost wall or full basement, you will have problems with shifting ground and I don't think Heather has a full basement or a frost wall, but I stand to be corrected.

Penobsquis Sink Holes

People who live along the upper Saint John River know that their properites may be flood in spring runoff or as a result of ice jams. I understand they are assisted and/or compensated by the provincial government. How are the people of Penobsquis entitled to less? 


Subsidence is real - at least according to PotashCorp


Have you tried researching this issue at all?  Or asking people from the area?  Subsidence is real according to PotashCorp at least.   And Corridor says they have Horizontal wells in Penobsquis although I am not sure what that has to do with anything.

My family has been in Penobsquis for about 9 generations.  In our area, over the mine, there is no record of sinkholes ever happening before.  None of the oldtimers are aware of this. 

I always wonder what people get out of offering all this misinformation up on websites like this?  I like people that tell the truth.  If you want to ask some questions, ask.

Here are some links about the subsidence below.  Then again Geologists and the mining company themselves can't possibly no more than a mechanic retired from the government garage can they?

1997 – Brian David Singleton’s master thesis report speaks of the horizontal movement of the ground in addition to the vertical subsidence.

1997 Chrzanowski’s Monahan Roulston

1998 Chrzanowski’s Forrester

2003 Chrzanowski’s Massiera Source Aquifer thought to be above 150m

2005 Engineering Geology Journal Article

2006 The Golder Report
Beddoes starting at page 127
 “The effects of measured and future mining induced displacement, caused as a normal consequence of the mining operation, are examined in relationship to the stability of the pipelines.”
 “The maximum accumulated displacement monitored along the SW-NE section is about 360mm, while along D-D section this value reaches 380mm.” (1989-2005)

2006 Wilson

2008 Chrzanowski’s research



2008 UNB Study to PotashCorp
4.1 Oberserved Vertical Displacement
(1) ……
(2) The subsidence above large f’tions(?) significant accelerations occurring in 2000 and in 2003. The maximum total accumulated subsidence over the secondary subsidence basin has reached about .65m (pt C0) between 1995 and 2008. The maximum subsidence rate (eg pts C0 and CZ in Fig 2.2) reached over 100mm/yr in 2002/03 followed by de-acceleration in 2003/04. Over the past 5 years (2003-2008) the rate of subsidence in the secondary subsidence basin has stabilized at about 40mm/yr. As a result since 2003 the subsidence rates in both primary and secondary subsidence are practically the same. This can be considered a very important finding.”

4.2 Re: Observed Horizontal Displacement
The following conclusions may be drawn from the horizontal displacement surveys.
(1) Generally the accumulated horizontal movements of the monitoring points are larger than expected. A number of stations have horizontal movement equal to or greater than their subsidence. The accumulated horizontal displacements reached over 0.5m (eg pt C0) since 1997.
The directions of the horizontal displacements in the area of the secondary subsidence also do not follow the expected pattern. The points still show movements towards the excavated area rather than towards the center of the secondary basin.”



Gee Timber Ted, 9

Gee Timber Ted, 9 Generations! We've been in NB for 6 generations and that dates to 1860 when my 9 yr old Great Grandfather and his 12 yr old sister arrived in Saint John From County Londonderry Northern Ireland Another 3 generations would put your family in the first wave of Draft Dodgers, (United Empire Loyalists).

I'm not implying any of your data is incorrect, all I've ever stated is subsidence is nothing new to Penobsquis, and "In My Opinion" Potash Mining is probably not the culprit and Sandstone Natural gas is a non issue as well.

Let me rephrase the horizontal Well remarks.

There are NO producing Horizontal wells producing in the Hiram Brook Sandstone formation where all the current McCully Wells are located.   There are angular wells producing as I stated in my previous post but these are not multi stage horizontal shale wells that seem to create all the furor.

If I have not made my position clear, I apologize for that but do not plan on debating the issue, my position has been stated as was the Heather McCabe story, You either agree with 1 or the other, and frankly I just wanted to present an opposing view not a protracted debate on who is right or wrong or whose is bigger... Have a great day...




Ed, so you just wander into a discussion, spread misinformation so you can offer an opposing viewpoint.  However you aren't prepared to stand behind you information? I personally prefer to deal in facts, on have honorable debate on facts.

Fact - There were no sinkholes in the area of the mine prior to mining.  Myster Crater perhaps there was.  That is several km's away though.Penobsquis could stretch from Hyne's Corner to Fundy Park, or Anagance if you want.  The area where the people are complaining to be affected is right over the mine in the area where the wells were lost. 

Fact - PotashCorp admits there is subsidence and studies it. One such study can be found at


Information about Penobsquis starts half through. 

FACT - Horizontal Wells.  The I-47 well is a horizontal well in Penobsquis that is in production.  There are likely more, but this is the first one I found with a quick search.  Once again I tire of hearing misinformation.   http://images.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=75817





Ed? You still there buddy?

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