Water Company Claims Rights to Provide Water to New Ohio School

Scioto Water, Inc. (SWI), a “federally indebted nonprofit rural water association” based in Ohio, filed a Southern District of Ohio lawsuit on Monday against the City of Portsmouth, Ohio, claiming that it has the right to provide water for a new school being built in or near the city. Portsmouth was accused of trying to “poach a current customer” located within a mile of the water company’s headquarters.

SWI reportedly produces .64 million gallons of water each day, which it provides to residents of Scioto County, Ohio. The company has operated the water distribution system for almost 50 years, and has been indebted to the USDA since its inception. The complaint stated that the U.S. Code prohibits municipalities from “limiting water service provided or made available by any rural water association indebted to the USDA.” The plaintiff accused the city of breaching this law. 

The plaintiff has reportedly provided water for the local school district since the early 1970s and currently provides water for the high school, which is adjacent to the planned elementary and high schools, which are supposed to be built starting in 2021. 

The complaint said that “despite SWI’s longstanding customer relationship with the School District and the presence of ample waterlines surrounding the property, Portsmouth is now attempting to provide competing potable water service to the new facility.” 

Reportedly, the school district is also constructing at least one fire hydrant at the property, which SWI cannot provide and could be provided by the city. However, Portsmouth supposedly said it would not provide service to the fire hydrant if it did not provide the potable water to the buildings, which SWI claimed exclusive rights to. The plaintiff alleged that the infrastructure for the city to provide the hydrant service and SWI to provide potable water is already in place. 

The plaintiff, represented by O’Toole McLaughlin Dooley & Pecora, CO., LPA, is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against the city, an award of damages, and a judgment in its favor.