MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
After a five-year $5 million study, a preliminary report revealed that 23 more suspected holes in the clay layer that protects Memphis’ aquifer. This aquifer supplies Memphians with drinking water.
The question some may have after hearing about this report covering some of the vulnerabilities in our city’s water supply are "could Memphis water end up in a water crisis like other cities in recent years?"
Some are saying only if those in charge of maintaining and distributing our water supply take proactive steps.
“We’ve all heard Memphis’ got good water — some of the best in the country — and that really is true and that’s because of our geology,” Sarah Houston the Executive Director of Protect Our Aquifer, said. “We don’t drink any water out of the Mississippi river.”
Instead, Memphians use water from an underground source known as the Memphis’ sand aquifer. A layer of clay protects that groundwater, which is pumped, purified and dispensed by utilities like Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW). the clay is referred to as being like a filter guarding the water from toxic chemicals.
“If you think about clay, water can’t really get through clay,” Houston said. “It’s protected us from a lot of industrial pollution because Memphis, being a river town, we’ve got chemical refineries — we’ve got all kinds of big factories here.”
The study funded by MLGW revealed 23 more suspected holes in the clay layer that protects Memphis’ supply of drinking water.
“That then clay layer — it’s not like a big block cheddar cheese, it’s more like Swiss cheese and that’s naturally occurring,” Houston said.
Protect Our Aquifer is a group that is calling on Memphians ahead of the full report's release to step up and push MLGW into not shelving the findings. Instead they want the energy supplier to make efforts now in order to prevent widespread contamination later.
“Everybody has an opportunity to really push forward,” Houston said. “It’s about saying involved, staying informed and taking action.”