MLGW Says Drinking Water Is Safe Despite EPA Findings

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - MLGW leaders are reassuring the public about the safety in the drinking water from your tap. Late Tuesday afternoon, MLGW President Jerry Collins downplayed the discovery by the EPA of a chemical deep below the ground of a former dry cleaners near University of Memphis, and close to a MLGW facility.

The EPA found the chemical Perchloroethylene, or Perc, in wells 150 below the ground in the 3500 block of Southern Avenue, a mile and a half from MLGW’s Sheahan Pumping Station on Grandview Avenue.

While the EPA said that chemical was in the Memphis Sands aquifer, Collins disputed that, and said MLGW never found that chemical in their testing wells, where your drinking water is pumped much deeper underground.

According to the EPA, Perc is a chemical solvent primarily used in dry cleaning and furniture care. Experts say high exposure over time is linked to certain health issues, even cancer. 

The former laundry and dry cleaning site sat in a lot near U of M for decades before it closed in the 1990's. In August, the EPA named the site on its national priorities list, where federal money will pay for long-term cleanup.

EPA tests in late August and early September found elevated levels of Perc in 2 of 6 groundwater wells, 150 feet below land in the Memphis Sands aquifer.

Again, MLGW leaders dispute that chemical was found actually in the aquifer, and those with the utility said they've never detected traces of Perc or any other chemical when they pump your water 500 to 1200 feet below ground.

"At this point there is no risk to the public,” says Collins. “We have never found any volatile organic compounds in the water coming from the MLGW wells in the Sheahan well field, and if we ever did it's likely that we would shut whatever well it was coming from down and no longer use it."

Collins said they last tested the Sheahan Pumping Station for chemicals in the spring. And because of the EPA designation, they'll now test that facility twice a year, including one more time between now and the start of 2018.


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