Water Company Officers Added to Lawsuit

New Claims Allege Unfair Trade Practices

JENKINSVILLE (June 16, 2016) – A Winnsboro attorney has filed a motion to amend a lawsuit filed in 2014 against the Jenkinsville Water Company (JWC), to include both the president and vice president of the JWC and adding allegations of violations of the S.C. Unfair Trade Practices Act.

In the original lawsuit, filed Sept. 28, 2014, Glenn E. Bowens, a Winnsboro attorney representing Broad River Campground, LLC, alleges a breach of contract by the water company, as well as a breach of contract “by a fraudulent act.” The suit also seeks a declaratory judgment to determine the rights of both parties in respect to an Oct. 28, 2009 agreement in which the water company agreed to provide up to 8,050 gallons a day of water to Phase 1 of the Broad River Campground.

The original lawsuit further alleges that JWC President Gregrey Ginyard and other members of the company’s Board of Directors “acting in furtherance of their personal interests, have conspired, obstructed and prevented the (JWC) board from approving” the campground’s requested willingness to serve letter to DHEC for an additional 49 campsites.

The motion to amend, filed last April, adds Ginyard and company vice president Joseph McBride as co-defendants.

Under the 2009 contract between JWC and Broad River Campground, the daily consumption of water per camp site was estimated at 175 gallons per day (GPD), with the number of sites not to exceed 46 without written approval by the water company. In 2011, Dee Melton, owner of the campground, requested and received approval for an additional 24 sites. The daily consumption of water per site was lowered to 53 GPD after a water study and use history of the campground since 2009 revealed the sites were only using an average of 24 GPD. The 8,050 GPD limit, meanwhile, remained in place.

In May of 2014, Melton requested an additional 50 sites (later reduced to 49 sites) and sought from the Jenkinsville Water Company a willingness to serve letter, which is required by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Revising the 53 GPD usage back to 175 GPD, the JWC denied Melton’s request. While the lawsuit states that Melton did not request an increase of actual water beyond the 8,050 GPD limit, the water company “has unreasonably refused permission for the additional campsites.”

The amended lawsuit claims that Ginyard, McBride and the JWC committed “unfair and deceptive acts and trade practices” in violation of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices law.

“The Defendants’ denial of water for the Plaintiff’s 49 campsites adversely affects the public interest,” the amended lawsuit alleges, “in that it unlawfully restrains trade and commerce by preventing the Plaintiff from expanding its campground and renting its campsites and by hindering the ability of workers constructing the new nuclear reactors from obtaining housing close to the construction site.”

The amended lawsuit also alleges that the defendants “falsely represented that DHEC required the water company to provide 175 GPD (per campsite) of potable water.”

Ginyard said Tuesday those claims were untrue.

“We never said DHEC told us we had to have 175 gallons per day,” Ginyard said. “Those were calculations the board had before I ever got there.”

A DHEC spokesperson told The Voice Tuesday, “We do not set a specific number to be used to anticipate future demand. If someone is ‘mandating’ the GPD per site, it would be done by someone other than DHEC.”

“When a project for a new system comes in, we rely on the design engineer to provide a projected demand,” the DHEC spokesperson added. “As long as it looks reasonable to us based on our analysis, we will not question the projected demand. For an existing system, we consider existing water use data as the best predictor of demand for expansion purposes.”

Additionally, the amended lawsuit claims that the defendants “falsely, deceptively and unfairly represented there was a water shortage;” that there was “insufficient water to provide water service to customers who apply;” claimed there was “not enough water to accommodate the Plaintiff’s additional 49 campsite;” and “used a higher estimated water usage rate than the lower actual water usage rate” in making the decision to deny the request for additional campsites.

“Based on the Defendants’ own billing and usage records the Defendants knew the Plaintiff was only using 24 GPD but still rated the campgrounds estimated usage at 175 GPD,” the amended lawsuit states. “The Defendant denied water service for the 49 campsites based on their claim that there was not sufficient water to provide the required 175 GPD,” and “unfairly refused to recalculate the estimated water usage rate based on the known water usage rate.”

The motion to amend was heard by a Sixth Circuit Court judge on June 2 and at press time was still under consideration. The main case, meanwhile, is proceeding, Bowens said, and will go to mediation in the next few weeks. Mediation, unlike arbitration, is not binding, Bowens said, and both sides have to sign off on the mediator’s decision. Otherwise, the case will proceed to a jury trial.