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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

TVA Allen Plant Investigation: Public Water Supply At Memphis Aquifer Not Contaminated With Arsenic

The Tennessee Valley Authority has released results of an environmental investigation at the Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis. In teh report, the TVA says while ar...

The Tennessee Valley Authority has released results of an environmental investigation at the Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis. In teh report, the TVA says while arsenic and other “constituents” were found in the shallow upper aquifer, the public water supply in the deeper Memphis Aquifer is not affected.

The Southern Environmental Law Center responded to the report with the following statement:

“TVA’s statement about the remedial investigation confirms our biggest fear–that there is a hydraulic connection between the arsenic-contaminated groundwater and the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the city’s drinking water source,” said Amanda Garcia, staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Although TVA is working on a contingency plan to supply cooling water from Memphis Light, Gas & Water, we still have major concerns that the pressure from pumping millions of gallons of water each day from a nearby station could pose similar contamination risks.  These threats to Memphis’s drinking water source could have been avoided if TVA had gone through the appropriate steps including conducting an in-depth environmental review, involving the public in the decision-making process and admitting its on-site contamination sooner. TVA should learn from its past mistakes and involve the public now in deciding how to provide water for the gas plant, including fully analyzing options like using recycled gray water as it originally proposed to the citizens of Memphis.”


A remedial investigation by the Tennessee Valley Authority into arsenic and other constituents found in shallow monitoring wells at its Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis confirms the elements are contained in the shallow upper Alluvial aquifer. The public water supply from the deeper Memphis Aquifer is not impacted.

In the spring of 2017, TVA reported elevated levels of arsenic, fluoride and lead in some shallow aquifer monitoring wells around the coal ash pond at the Allen Fossil Plant. TVA, under the oversight of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, began a remedial investigation into the nature and extent of the contamination.

Yesterday, TVA submitted its remedial investigation report to TDEC. That report confirms that arsenic, lead and other constituents have not migrated into the Memphis Aquifer. TVA will work with TDEC to determine if any additional investigation is necessary, then begin evaluating clean-up alternatives for the contamination.

The information also includes a draft report from the United States Geological Survey  on the initial results of pump tests at the Allen natural gas plant conducted by USGS and the University of Memphis. That testing indicates there is a hydraulic connection between the Alluvial and Memphis aquifers. More investigation is necessary to better understand the connection and the impacts of the existing industrial wells in the surrounding area.

No contaminants were found in TVA’s Memphis Aquifer production wells at the natural gas plant. However, TVA remains committed to not operating the wells at this time.

Rather than using the production wells, TVA has been working on contingency plans to supply cooling water to the gas plant and ensure the facility can begin operating later this year as scheduled. The state-of-the-art natural gas plant is more than 95 percent complete.

These plans include purchasing water from MLGW for daily operations, building two, 2.5 million-gallon water tanks at the Allen site to help meet peak power demands, and building a second redundant water feed to increase reliability of the water supply for the plant.

The gas plant is scheduled to begin full operations in late Spring 2018. For more information, go to: www.TVA.com/newsroom.

For more information about TVA and its 84-year mission of service to the Tennessee Valley, click here.