Community members concerned with TVA water contamination, future well use

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis is known for having some of the freshest and cleanest water in the country, which is why it’s no surprise people are speaking out against anyone tampering with it.

City and state leaders, along with members of the community, were at a Ground Water Control Board meeting on Thursday to discuss the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) wells in Memphis and recent studies into contamination.

Mayor Jim Strickland is one of several people who don’t want to see the water quality change in Memphis.

“It is truly one of our greatest assets," he said.

He kicked off the Ground Water Quality Control Board meeting where Sen. Lee Harris, MLGW leaders, TVA representatives and community members were in attendance.

What launched the meeting is recent contamination (above the legal drinking limit) of lead and arsenic found in two of TVA’s shallow monitoring wells. They’re about 50 feet below ground at the TVA’s Allen Fossil Plant.

“Now we’re in the process of identifying that level of contamination and figuring out what to do with it," said Scott Brooks with TVA public relations.

Brooks says they’re now gathering data of all the water to figure out what’s causing the problem and how widespread it may be.

It fueled concerns that our drinking water could also be at risk of future contamination, as it’s drawn about two miles away. But tests by MLGW show otherwise.

“That’s certainly the good news," said Brooks. "All the testing that MLGW did on the drinking water sources found no source of contamination in Memphis or for the fossil plant or anywhere else.”

TVA has been asked to put five of its new wells at a natural gas plant about a quarter mile from the Allen Plant on hold, or contact the board or county before pulling from them.

They’d use water from the aquifer to cool the plant, and many people are against it.

“It just doesn’t fit that we’re protecting our aquifer when this is going on," said Judith Rutschman, a member of the Sierra Club.

She and others expressed the desire that other options should be explored.

State leaders said there’s no authority for them to say TVA can’t use the water if it’s not contaminated.

TVA says it’ll take several months for all the results to come back.

For full disclosure, we want to note WREG's General Manager Ron Walter sits on the TVA's Board of Directors.

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