MERGING OF PENNSYLVANIA WATER COMPANIES

MERGING OF PENNSYLVANIA WATER COMPANIES

According to the New York World, the Pennsylvania Railroad company, by employing dummies as shields to hide its identity, has obtained possession in perpetuity of the watersheds of nine counties—practically the whole available water supply in the richly populated section lying between Pittsburg and Harrisburg. The company claims that it was absolutely necessary to get hold of these rights, in order to supply its locomotives with water. The result is that scores of communities are now obliged to depend upon the railway corporation for their water supply. The World insists that the company has absorbed in all forty water companies, and, to disguise its ownership, has placed the shares of stock in the name of an outside corporation. Evasions, if not violations of the law, were thus committed in acquiring these rights, the law forbidding any incorporate company doing business as a common carrier directly or indirectly engaging in any other business than that of a common carrier. The charter of the company contains no clause impowering it to own water-supplying companies; yet it now owns water rights in the counties of Cambria, Westmoreland, Blair, Huntingdon, Fayette, Juniata, Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry. To obtain tin e rights, the company is accused of utilising groups of officers and employes, who either secured the franchises or bought up one small water company after the other. A merger process reduced to eleven the forty companies so bought up, and the American Pipe Manufacturing company, the World states, was made the nominal owner; trust ed men under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad company were put in as directors of each concern, qualifying shares being given them. Of the American Pipe Manufacturing company-a $5,000,000 corporation, of which $4,000,000 is issued and twelve per cent, dividends paid at least one of the Pennsylvania’s officers J. T. Richards, chief engineer of the maintenance of wayis a stockholder. The American Pipe Manufacturing company, it is expected, will make large profits out of the various water companies. Elaborate reservoirs and systems are being constructed, and it is said that it is planned to lay out $15,000,000 on the work. 1’he original charters of some of the water companies state that they were organised to furnish specifically named towns with water. These towns and villages will now he absolutely dependent on the railway company for any water they may need; but the wants of the railway must first IK: supplied. It is given as an excuse for buying up those water rights and companies that in 1904 the road was barely able to operate, because of an inadequate supply of water, and because the water it was compelled to use was so impure that some of its new locomotives were crippled in two days and had to he sent to the repair shops. To insure a permanent supply of pure water, therefore, along its lines the forty companies were bought up.

The Tribune, in commenting editorially on the alleged inadequate pressure at the recent West Fifty-third street fire, says: “It was a disgrace to the largest city of the western world. * * * The impossibility of getting water from certain mains on the upper West Side is not a new development. It is an old, old story. The trouble has been attributed—no doubt correctly—to the smallness of the pipes, some of which have been in use for at least twenty years. They might have met all the demands likely to be made on them when first laid: but today they represent as primitive a state of civilisation as does the old hand-brake fire engine. It is a noteworthy circumstance that the present water commissioner, Mr. O’Brien, was for several years at the head of the fire department. If he kept his eyes open previous to his recent transfer to a new post, he must have become well acquainted with the existence of the evil He is now where he can do something to remedy it.”

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