MEMPHIS, Tenn. — High levels of arsenic and lead have been found in monitoring wells at the Allen Fossil Plant in Southwest Memphis, though state and local officials say they are confident the contaminants are not affecting the city’s prized supply of drinking water.
Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the power plant, notified the state in May that several wells monitoring water about 50 feet below the ground turned up with elevated levels of the contaminants. The TVA facility is about two miles from the Davis well field, which supplies drinking water to the area drawn from the deeper Memphis Sand Aquifer.
“We do not have any reason to believe at this point that the Memphis Sands Aquifer has been impacted, and we are committed to working to ensure that the issue is appropriately identified and remediated so that remains the case,” the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a statement.
Still, the agency is requesting that Memphis Light Gas & Water test its drinking water “out of an abundance of caution,” to reassure the utility’s customers. TVA will be required to install additional ground water monitoring wells and collect ground water samples that will be analyzed for contaminants commonly found in coal ash.
MLGW said they will have results from a drinking water analysis late next week, but they do not expect to find arsenic in the water.
Scott Brooks with the TVA said the next step is “determining where the arsenic is coming from and where the flow is going.”
TVA was granted approval to dig wells into the Memphis Sand aquifer and pump out millions of gallons to cool the Allen plant. That move prompted lawsuits from environmental groups including the Sierra Club, who say the wells could allow contaminants from upper aquifers to get into drinking water.
Note: Ron Walter, the president and general manager of WREG, is a member of the TVA Board of Directors.