OPINION ISSUED JANUARY 19, 2001
ALTON DALE WEST AND ALVIN DAVID WEST
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimants brought this action for damaged water quality as a
result of blasting by a contractor for respondent near Route 97 in
Hanover, Wyoming County. The Court is of the opinion to deny this
claim for the reasons more fully set forth below.Claimant Alton
Dale West owns a house in Hanover, Wyoming County that was built in
1968.Claimants adduced two deeds on October 13, 2000, as
post-hearing exhibits, which establish the chain of title of the
property in question from his parents to him. Mr. West's brother,
Claimant Alvin David West resides in the house. A nearby well, dug
in 1968, supplies the residence with water. The well is fifty-five
to sixty feet deep and does not have a filter. All of the local
residents have their own personal wells. From spring 1997 to fall
1998, Bizzack, Inc., was involved in a construction project on
Route 97. During this project, Bizzack, Inc., conducted blasting
operations in the area for about one year. The site of the
blasting was about one hundred fifty feet from the house and it was
at an elevation twenty to twenty-five feet lower than the house.
On August 29, 1997, Mr. Alvin West completed a pre-blast survey in
which he indicated that the well had been tested and iron was found
in the well water supply. Mr. West also indicated the presence of
sulphur in the well water supply. On one occasion, blasting debris
struck the residence damaging an awning. Afterwards, Mr. Alvin
West signed a release form and he was reimbursed for the damages by
Bizzack, Inc.'s insurer. Sometime between September through
November of 1998, claimant Alvin David West began to notice a
discoloration in the water supply from the well. This
discoloration became progressively worse. Mr. West testified that
prior to the blasting, there was no problem with the water supply.
After the blasting, he testified that the water was not drinkable
or useable for general domestic purposes. Mr. Alvin West further
testified that he has to purchase drinking water and take his
clothes to the laundromat. According to Mr. Alvin West, he
reported the problem to the insurer for Bizzack, Inc., and he was
instructed to file a claim in this Court. The sustained damage to
the well was estimated between $2,790.00 and $3,384.00. Neither Mr.
Alton West nor Mr. Alvin West had a homeowner's insurance policy
that would have provided coverage for this incident.
In this claim, the evidence failed to establish negligence on
the part of respondent. The Court is of the opinion that the adduced evidence was too speculative to conclude that the blasting
was the proximate cause of damage to the well such that the water
quality was affected by an infiltration of iron. There are many
other plausible reasons for the iron in the water other than the
blasting. Moreover, the completed pre-blast survey indicated that
there were some water quality problems prior to the blasting.
While the Court is sympathetic to claimants' plight, the fact
remains that there is no evidence of negligence on the part of
respondent upon which to base an award.
In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law
stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to and does deny