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PETER PAUL BACIC, CHARLES C. COX, H. FOREST HAUGH,
AND LUTHER M. DURST
FEBRUARY 13, 1945.-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House and
ordered to be printed
Mr. JENNINGS, from the Committee on Claims, submitted the following
[To accompany H. R. 2063)
The Committee on Claims, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 2063) for the relief of Peter Paul Bacic, Charles C. Cox, H. Forest Haugh, and Luther M. Durst, having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill, as amended, do pass.
The amendment is as follows:
At the end of the bill add: Provided, That no part of the amount appropriated in this Act in excess of 10 per centum thereof shall be paid or delivered to or received by any agent or attorney on account of services rendered in connection with this claim, and the same shall be unlawful, any contract to the contrary notwithstanding. Any person violating the provisions of this Act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined in any sum not exceeding $1,000.
A similar bill was favorably reported by this committee in the Seventy-eighth Congress.
The facts will be found fully set forth in House Report No. 1771, Seventy-eighth Congress, which is appended hereto and made a part
of this report.
(P. Rept. No. 1771, 78th Cong., 2d sess.) The purpose of the proposed legislation is to appropriate the sum of $500 to Peter Paul Bacic; to pay $590.76 to Charles C. Cox; to pay $391.75 to H. Forest Haugh; and to pay $310 to Luther M. Durst, all of Transfer, Pa., in full settlement of all claims against the United States for property damage sustained by them when water wells on their farms either became dry or polluted due to the lowering of the water table in that area as the result of the drilling of several deep wells by a private contractor under contract with the United States to provide water for Camp Reynolds, in Mercer County, Pa., in October 1942.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
It appears that in the latter part of 1942 the War Department drilled several deep wells at Camp Reynolds, Mercer County, Pa., which resulted in the water wells on the claimants' farms becoming dry or polluted due to the lowering of the water table in that area. The facts are that these claimants all had wells that supplied them with water which was suitable for domestic and other purposes. The Government located a tank nearby and sank a deep well much below the water level which had served the wells of these four parties. It is admitted that there was a stream of water flowing under their property. The Government went down below that water table and, as a result, their wells were dried up and they were compelled to drill deeper wells. The Government admits that that is what happened and its operation necessitated the sinking of wells to a lower depth. However, the Government takes the position that these are consequential damages for which the Government is not responsible. As a matter of right and justice, if the Government comes along and takes their water, they would have just as strong a case as if the Government came along and diverted a stream of water from a man's pasture where he had watered his cattle.
In the War Department's report it is stated:
“On October 6 and 7, 1942, a pumping test was conducted on well No. 1 to determine the effect on the privately owned wells. The test showed that the wells of three of the property owners became dry within a very short time as an effect of pumping this well. The farms affected have no source of water other than from the damaged wells. Local inquiry indicates that heretofore the wells have not failed to produce water. The costs of restoring water to these individuals, as set forth in the measure, are considered reasonable.
It is the opinion of your committee that the Government is directly responsible for the conditions existing and that these claimants should be paid for the damages sustained. Therefore, your committee recommends favorable consideration to the proposed legislation.
Appended hereto is the report of the War Department, together with other pertinent information.
Washington, March 15, 1944. Hon. Dan R. McGEHEE, Chairman, Committee on Claims,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. McGEHEE: Further reference is made to your letter of November 30, 1943, transmitting for report H. R. 3630 (78th Cong., ist sess.), a bill for the relief of Peter Paul Bacic, Charles C. Cox, H. Forest Haugh, and Luther M. Durst.
The War Department opposes enactment of the bill.
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to pay, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to Peter Paul Bacic, Transfer, Pennsylvania, the sum of $500; to Charles C. Cox, Transfer, Pennsylvania, the sum of $590.76; to H. Forest Haugh, Transfer, Pennsylvania, the sum of $391.75; and to Luther M. Durst, Transfer, Pennsylvania, the sum of $310. The payment of such sums shall be in full settlement of all claims of said individuals against the United States for property damage sustained by them when water wells on their farms either became dry or polluted due to the lowering of the water table in that area as the result of the drilling of several deep wells by a private contractor under contract with the United States to provide water for Camp Reynolds (formerly Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot) in Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.'
In the course of construction of Camp Reynolds, Transfer, Pa., several deep wells were drilled on the Government reservation. These wells, supplemented by a surface water source from the Shenango River and Big Run, furnish the water supply for the camp. The surface source alone is insufficient to meet the total demand of the reservation.
During the period of testing and operation of wells No. 1 and No. 5, complaints were received by the area engineer that shallow wells owned by the beneficiaries named in the bill, residing west of the north limits of the depot site, had become dry, allegedly due to the fact that the water table in that area had been lowered by the operation of the deeper Government wells.
Both Government and privately owned wells obtain water from the same water-bearing stratum. It has been ascertained that the wells tap an underground stream which formerly was the channel of the Shenango River and which flows in a northerly direction toward Lake Erie. The stream flows through a stratum of loose glaciated till, varying in thickness and density over a large area. The Government well No. 1 was drilled to a depth of 106 feet, whereas the privately owned wells averaged 45 to 87 feet in depth.
On October 6 and 7, 1942, a pumping test was conducted on well No. 1 to determine the effect on the privately owned wells. The tests showed that the wells of three of the property owners became dry within a very short time as an effect of pumping this well. The farms affeoted have no source of water other than from the damaged wells. Local inquiry indicates that heretofore the wells have not failed to produce water. The costs of restoring water to these indivi. duals, as set forth in the measure, are considered reasonable. No legal liability attaches to the United States in its sovereign capacity for the damage sustained to the property of the claimants. With respect to liability as between private parties under similar circumstances, the preponderance of authority in the locale supports the doctrine that there can be no recovery for injury caused to a subterranean supply of water by the lawful acts of an owner of land unless the stream is well defined and its existence known or easily discernible or unless the injury be caused by regligence or malice.
The Bureau of the Budget advises that there is no objection to the submission of this report. Sincerely yours,
HENRY L. STIMSON,
Secretary of War.
To the Honorable ROBERT L. RODGERS,
Congress of the United States, Washington, D. C.: The petition of Peter Paul Bacic, alias Peter P. Bassick, of Pymatuning Township, rural delivery No. 1, Transfer, Mercer County, Pa., respectfully represents:
1. That your petitioner owns in fee simple 181 acres, more or less, of land situate in said Pymatuning Township, having erected thereon dwelling house, barn, and several out buildings, on which your petitioner has resided for more than 25 years past.
2. That your petitioner for a period of many years has obtained his water supply from a drilled well on said premises without any failure of the water supply until about Jandary 1, 1943.
3. That incident to the construction of Camp Reynolds (formerly Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot) in said Pymatuning Township, the MellonStuart Co., under contract with the United States Government for the construction of said Camp Reynolds, drilled several water wells on the camp site.
4. That thereafter the water supply of your petitioner, as well as that of several other homes in the immediate vicinity, was entirely cut off, rendering your petitioner's water well entirely dry and useless.
5. That your petitioner is the owner and has on said premises livestock consisting of 38 head of cattle, 20 hogs, and 300 chickens; that an average monthly milk production of 900 gallons of milk requires water for cooling milk to a proper temperature and, due to the limited available water supply, your petitioner has been notified several times by his dairy company that the milk would be unsalable unless cooled to a lower degree.
6. That petitioner was compelled to meet the shortage of water by digging a wet weather spring on his premises to help relieve the situation; however, his entire family became sick about the first of April from drinking water from this spring.
7. That a fire hazard exists because of the shortage of water and on June 26, 1943, petitioner had a fire that destroyed an unoccupied house on his premises, all of which could have been avoided by the proper supply of water.
8. That petitioner is attempting to procure the services of a well digger, but up to the present time has been unsuccessful in doing so. His expenses to be incurred arrived at by the drilling expense of other property owners in the same immediate vicinity is estimated as set forth on attached exhibit to be in the total amount of $500; it being understood, however, that if the installation of proper water supply is completed, that your petitioner will submit duly verified bills for the
Wherefore your petitioner respectfully requests your assistance and efforts for reimbursement from the proper governmental agency in the estimated amount of $500 to be expended for the obtaining of a water supply.
PETER Paul Bacic, Petitioner.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
County of Mercer, ss: Before me, the undersigned authority, personally appeared Peter Paul Bacie, who being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that the facts set forth in the foregoing petition are true and correct.
PETER PAUL BACIC, Petitioner. Sworn to and subscribed before me this 9th day of October 1943. (BEAL
L. N. DILLEY, Notary Public. My commission expires April 21, 1947. To the Area Engineers, Camp Reynolds (Formerly Shenango Personnel Replace
ment Depot), Victory, Pa.: Statement for estimated expenses to be incurred in drilling water well, installing pump, materials, and labor on property of Peter Paul Bacic of Pymatuning Township, Rural Delivery No. 1, Transfer, Mercer County, Pa.: Drilling well and casing
$400 Purchase and installation of pump..
Total estimated expenditure..
500 I do hereby certify that above statement is true and correct.
PETER PAUL BACIC. Sworn to and subscribed before me this 9th day of October 1943. (SEAL)
L. N. DILLEY, Notary Public. My commission expires April 21, 1947.
To the Honorable ROBERT L. RODGERS,
Washington, D. C.:
1. That your petitioners own in fee simple 1 acre of land situate in Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, Pa., having erected thereon a combination dwelling house, service station, and residence, on which your petitioners have resided for the past 2 years.
2. That your petitioners obtained their water supply from a drilled well on said premises during the period of their residence, without interruption or inadequate supply of water, until on or about January 1, 1943, with the exception of about 2 weeks during the month of October 1942.
3. That incident to the construction of Camp Reynolds (formerly Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot) in said Pymatuning Township, the Mellon-Stuart Co., under contract with the United States Government for the construction of said Camp Reynolds, drilled several water wells on the camp site, during the fall of 1942.
4. That thereafter the water supply of your petitioners, as well as that of several other homes in the immediate vicinity, was entirely cut off, rendering your petitioners' water well entirely dry and useless.