Town councilman admits to violating town well ban - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Town councilman admits to violating town well ban

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On Oct. 15, McBee town councilman Kemp McLeod tells WIS he's using a residential well at his home, but it's only for irrigation. The town's residential well ban allows private wells for irrigation purposes only. On Oct. 15, McBee town councilman Kemp McLeod tells WIS he's using a residential well at his home, but it's only for irrigation. The town's residential well ban allows private wells for irrigation purposes only.
McBee councilman Kemp McLeod's Ninth Street home has access to town water, but meter readings show no gallons used in the last 19 months. McBee councilman Kemp McLeod's Ninth Street home has access to town water, but meter readings show no gallons used in the last 19 months.
MCBEE, SC (WIS) -

In 1995, the town of McBee banned residential wells and forced the people who live there to purchase town water. The ban's been in effect ever since, but a WIS investigation has found one town council member who hasn't used a drop of city water in the last 19 months. 

WIS obtained meter readings for Councilman Kemp McLeod's home for every month since Jan. 1, 2012 through July 2013. Those records show McLeod hasn't used a single gallon of town water during the timeframe of our review of his records.

McBee passed a town ordinance in October 1995, banning residential wells after a farmer in town, Ben Norwood, asked to be allowed to install a well on his property to "irrigate nursery stock" on his cattle farm. Council denied Norwood's request, then immediately made a motion to work on an ordinance to ban residential wells.

The reason mentioned in the minutes had to do with the town requiring residents to buy water from the town, which created income for the Chesterfield County town. Council minutes from Oct. 3, 1995 shows council passed a second reading of the well ban.

Town records show the ordinance was untouched until 2007 when the town modified the law, allowing residential wells for irrigation systems only.

COUNCILMAN'S WELL USE

We went to McBee on Oct. 15 to investigate a tip that Councilman Kemp McLeod was using a residential well to provide water inside his home instead of using town water as required by law. While shooting video on the corner in front of McLeod's home, he confronted us on the side of the road.

McLeod drove up, introduced himself, and asked why we were there. That's when we started questioning McLeod about his meter records, which show zero gallons used since Jan. 1, 2012.

"Are you using any city water at your home?" Barr asked McLeod. "Yes, sir," McLeod replied. "Would you contest the fact that if we had your records for the past 19 months that there were zero gallons used at your home?" Barr asked. "I don't know," McLeod responded.

"Do you have a well?" Barr asked, "Yes, sir," McLeod answered. "Are you using that for indoor consumption?" Barr asked. "For irrigation," McLeod answered. "For irrigation?" Barr clarified. "Yes, sir," McLeod confirmed. "Why are there no gallons showing up?" Barr asked. "I don't know," the councilman responded.

We compared McLeod's water meter readings to his neighbor across the street. Water records show where McLeod's used zero gallons since Jan. 1, 2012, while his neighbor paid for 109,360 gallons of McBee water.

We also compared McLeod's meter readings to McBee Mayor John Campolong. Campolong lives one block over from McLeod. Campolong's meter records show he's paid the town for 172,620 gallons during the same timeframe we reviewed for councilman McLeod. Campolong's paid McBee a total of $567.93 in water bills during that time. McBee made a $216 profit from that.

By comparison, McLeod's paying the mandatory $8.48 minimum for access to town water. McLeod's paid $161.12 to the town since Jan. 1, 2012.

"Do you realize there's a city ordinance that says this can't happen, that you cannot have a private well for indoor use?" Barr asked McLeod. "I don't know, I don't know," McLeod said. "You don't know?" I've got it here, would you like to see it?" Barr asked. "Not right now," McLeod replied.

We presented the 2007 ordinance where the town allowed residential wells for irrigation systems, but still had a ban in place for using well water inside town homes. "I don't remember. I don't know," McLeod said.

We found Councilman McLeod at last week's council meeting. We took the opportunity to ask him again about his private well that's kept inside a brick pump house in his back yard. After initially telling us he uses his well strictly for his sprinkler system, McLeod gave us a different explanation, "My well was put in in '01 before the ordinance, and we had asbestos piping in the ground, so therefore, it's been there the whole time, before the ordinance," McLeod explained. "So, you're grandfathered in?" Barr asked, "Yes, sir," McLeod answered.

McBee's ordinance does not contain a grandfather clause. The 2007 ordinance doesn't show any exceptions aside from irrigation use for residential wells.

WIS obtained McBee council minutes from Sept. 4, 2001 that shows McLeod wrote the town a letter, asking to be allowed an exception to the well ban to install a well at his home for an irrigation system. The ban was still in effect in 2001. Council minutes do not show McLeod was ever granted an exemption as council tabled his request was tabled that night in 2001.

McLeod contends his well was grandfathered in and was in before the 1995 ban.

McLeod is paying the monthly minimum to McBee, "I pay a minimum every month. I pay a minimum every month," McLeod said.

McBee's municipal court records show a violation of a town ordinance carries a penalty for violating town ordinances. McBee's town code section 7.301 "Penalties" states, "If the municipal judge shall find a party guilty of violating an ordinance or state law within the jurisdiction of this court, he may impose a fine or imprisonment, or both, not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500) or thirty (30) days, unless otherwise provided in this code."

We do not know whether this incident will be investigated.

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