Goins counters JWC suit

JENKINSVILLE – Jenkinsville Water Company’s (JWC) lawsuit against one of its fiercest critics “is atrocious” and “utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” according to a response and countersuit recently filed in Fairfield County Circuit Court.

On March 4, the JWC filed a slander and defamation lawsuit against Fairfield County Councilwoman Bertha Goins, alleging her criticisms damaged the organization’s reputation.

In bringing suit, the JWC has said Goins’ past comments that Jenksinville water is “substandard” and contains sediment are untrue.

“The above-referenced statements are false, defamatory and impugne [sic] the good reputation Jenkinsville Water Co. has with respect to the quality of its water,” the lawsuit states.

Goins’ response filed Monday denies all assertions of slander and defamation. It says the water company’s lawsuit claims “are frivolous and/or malicious,” and that the JWC is trying to “silence Defendant’s criticism and questioning of the Jenkinsville Water Company.”

All told, Goins’ response to the lawsuit lists 13 defenses and six counterclaims. Several defenses note that the JWC has had a long history of trouble with state and federal regulatory agencies.

Among them is a new revelation that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled the JWC as a “serious violator,” according to the litigation and EPA website.

The website notes that the EPA found the JWC in non-compliance for nine of the past 12 quarters.

Further, the site states the JWC has had two quarters with “significant violations” and 20 informal enforcement actions in the past five years.

The JWC and its lawyer have also touted recent state water tasting contests the organization has won.
However, only a small fraction of the state’s water companies actually entered the contest. Also, the contest didn’t verify the authenticity of submitted water samples, relying instead on an honors system, a representative of the state rural water association told The Voice.

The JWC has faced additional violations from the S.C. Public Service Commission and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to the counterclaim.

Goins asserts the JWC has a duty to provide “water that is safe for them to drink, to cook with, to bathe in, and to otherwise use in their homes,” the response states.

Jenkinsville Water Company has a long history of failing to comply with the rules and regulations of the Public Service Commission as well as those of DHEC, the countersuit continues.

“Upon information and belief, the Jenkinsville Water Company does this to avoid appropriate oversight of its operations.”

The counterclaim goes on to say that the JWC routinely violates the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A 2011 opinion from the S.C. Attorney General’s office stating that the JWC is a public body and subject to FOIA was filed along with the lawsuit.

In addition, the lawsuit asserts abuse of process, breach of contract, breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, outrage and harassment, and violations of the Unfair Trade Practice Act.

Goins has requested a jury trial and seeks a slew of unspecified actual, punitive and other damages.

“Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s conduct as described herein, and as will be shown at the trial of this matter, is atrocious, utterly intolerable in a civilized community, and so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency,” the countersuit states.