NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro police have arrested a father and son with a car washing business for allegedly stealing water from a Metro fire hydrant.
Although how much water was taken from city hydrants over the last two years is unknown, Nashville water officials say it could be more than a million gallons of water that has not yet been paid for.
News 2 has been investigating Ed and Auston McClain for years.
Over the last several months, reporter Andy Cordan obtained surveillance footage that shows the father and son tapping a fire hydrant outside 55 Willow St. and filling up a large mobile water tank on several occasions.
Surveillance footage from July 16 shows Auston McClain and two unidentified co-workers using a wrench to open up a city fire hydrant.
The men spend many minutes pumping city water through a 3-inch fire hose, ultimately filling up their American Wash Company tanker with an estimated 500 gallons.
The following day, on July 17, more surveillance footage shows
Ed McClain tapping the same hydrant and filling his water tanks until they overflow.
A week later, on July 21, video surveillance shows Auston McClain filling up his company truck from the fire hydrant on Willow Street in front of the family shop, again.
Metro Police Officer Jeb Johnston, who has been investigating this case, said McClain told police he has contracts with 100 car lots in the Middle Tennessee area washing cars.
On Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. after an investigation spanning several months, Metro Police arrested Ed McClain charging him with theft of services and criminal littering for allegedly washing waste materials out of the truck into the street and storm drains.
When asked if he was stealing water, the 57-year old McClain said no.
Auston McClain was also arrested and charged with three counts of theft of services for allegedly stealing city water.
News 2 reached out to the young McClain, but he had no comment.
Ed McClain told police he had permission to take water, claiming he has rented a water department authorized meter.
But he claims the meter was destroyed a month ago.
Metro water officials showed News 2 the meter that the McClains rented. It is 2 to 3 feet long and in the three surveillance videos, there is no sign of the meter being used as they take water from the city fire hydrant.
According to John Kennedy of Metro Water Services, Ed McClain rented a fire hydrant meter in March 2013. The contract he signed said the meter had to be read monthly and brought in for inspection at least every three months.
It was not brought in until April 2014. Metro Water Services had no data to accurately bill the business. So they sent a bill and they paid the minimum, $40.84 per month.
When American Washing did bring the meter in, officials said they had significantly altered and damaged the equipment.
According to Kennedy, Metro water officials estimate that the McClains used well over $1 million gallons of water they have yet to pay for.
Kennedy tells News 2 the McClains did pay approximately $2,100 over those 2.5 years, but adding up the broken equipment and estimated water used, the McClains still owe the city over $3,000.
In 2009, 6 years ago this month, News 2 confronted the McClains for the same thing as police charged them with theft of services for taking water from city fire hydrants.
At that time, Ed McClain said he had a letter authorizing his use of a fire fighters tool to open the hydrants, but he never could produce the letter.
The fire department denied he had access to any such tool and the water department said the McClains did not have authorization to tap into metro hydrants as they claimed.
Both McClains were convicted on one count of theft of services in that previous case.
At the time, Ed McClain told News 2, “We don’t feel we are doing anything dishonest”