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Conservationists Meet With Shelby County Groundwater Control Board On Water Safety

Conservationists are meeting with the Shelby County Groundwater Control Board to ensure the water you drink is indeed safe.           &...
Conservationists on Water Safety

Conservationists are meeting with the Shelby County Groundwater Control Board to ensure the water you drink is indeed safe.                                                        

Back in May, we first reported how harsh chemicals above standard level made it into the groundwater wells at the Allen Fossil Station plant.                              

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has launched an investigation to find the source of that contamination.

It was at the Allen Fossil Station plant where a few shallow groundwater wells showed high levels of arsenic, lead, and fluoride. 

Although the drinking water has been tested and is safe to drink, officials now want to make sure it stays that way. 

The Tennessee Valley Authority, also known as TVA, has teamed up with TDEC to investigate high levels of arsenic and other contaminants in the monitoring wells at the Allen Fossil plant in Memphis. Earlier this year, there were concerns that some of the wells used for cooling water at the gas plant, that go into the Sand Aquifor were contaminated. 

“It’s been found in the shallow wells near the coal ash pond, and the levels at actually above what we would actually see in coal ash,” says TVA Spokesperson Scott Brooks. “So now we are trying to figure out where that contamination is coming from. It might be multiple sources.”

As a precaution, TVA is installing additional monitoring wells around the fossil plant. Plus, it has halted five wells built for a new natural gas plant that is under construction.

Conservationists are concerned because those wells tap into the Aquifor.

“Operating wells close by contamination sources poses a threat to our Aquifor, because we know that there are places down along the riverfront where the meandering of the river has cut holes in the clay layer that protect our Aquifor from pollution above,” says Scott Banbury, a conservationist with the Sierra Club.

Thursday’s meeting will allow people like Banbury, who are still worried about the source of the contamination, to express those concerns. 

“Obviously when people think of arsenic contamination the first thing they think of, ‘is it in my drinking water?’ and we’ve already determine along with MLGW that the answer to that is no,” says Brooks.

Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Lee Harris (D-Memphis) sent Local 24 these statements, which they say they made after the Shelby County Groundwater Control Board meeting.

“We are pleased by the meeting of the Groundwater Control Board (GWCB),” said Senator Harris. “We may still have a ways to go and we should all remain alert. However, today’s meeting confirms that this issue is moving in the right direction. Over the last few weeks, members of the GWCB and, frankly, leadership at TVA have worked hard to ease our concerns about the five new wells. Among other things, our understanding is that there will be an independent investigation, pumping at the new wells for plant operations will be suspended until the investigation is complete, and the GWCB will prepare new rules to give more public notice and protections for the Memphis aquifer. This is good news and what we have been pushing for over several months at both the state and local level. One of our greatest and most precious resources is right underneath our feet.”

“I thank the board for holding this meeting,” said Senator Kelsey. “This action is a victory in the fight to protect our drinking water now and for years to come.”