Memphis City Council member Martavius Jones formally added his voice Tuesday to the chorus of Memphians who don’t want the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to dig wells into the Memphis Sand aquifer.
The TVA has floated an idea to pull 3.5 million gallons of water per day from the Memphis Sand aquifer to cool its new, under-construction gas plant on President’s Island. Jones introduced a resolution Tuesday urging TVA boards members to consider using waste water or buying water from Memphis Light Gas & Water for that purpose.
The resolution passed the council’s MLGW committee Tuesday morning and will get a vote from the full council Tuesday afternoon, during its regular meeting. Also, Jones requested the item get same night minutes, which means it could not be re-examined and changed at a later council meeting.
The timing, he said Tuesday, was important as TVA board members hold their next quarterly meeting Thursday in Knoxville. He said he hopes the resolution from the full council will reach the TVA board before they make any decision on the matter.
However, allowing the new wells could be a decision for the Shelby County Health Department. MLGW president Jerry Collins told council member Worth Morgan that that agency alone has the authority to grant new wells, just like the ones TVA has proposed.
Here’s Jones’ resolution in full:
WHEREAS, the City of Memphis is grateful that the Tennessee Valley Authority has chosen to replace the coal burning Allen Fossil Plant, the number one source of air pollution in Shelby County, with a much cleaner and far more efficient combined-cycle natural gas plant; and
WHEREAS, the Memphis Sand Aquifer, and the pristine water that comes from it, is one of the greatest assets of the Memphis metropolitan area; and
WHEREAS, sustainable planning is critical in ensuring Memphis continues to have an adequate supply of drinking water for its residents and properly monitors all withdrawals from the Memphis Sand Aquifer; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Valley Authority indicated in initial publicly available planning documents it would use waste water from the adjacent Maxson Sewage Treatment Plant to replace cooling water lost through evaporation during operation of its new plant; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Valley Authority recently decided to switch to use water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer water, and didn't publish their new planning documents; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Valley Authority is already drilling on-site groundwater wells to access the Memphis Sand Aquifer; and
WHEREAS, the University of Memphis' Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research has recommended that the Tennessee Valley Authority should carefully consider using the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer rather than our precious Memphis Sand Aquifer; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Valley Authority mission of service, as stated on their website, "includes being stewards of the regions’ natural resources"; and
WHEREAS, Memphis Light, Gas and Water is also recognized as a responsible steward of our precious groundwater, including the Memphis Sand Aquifer; and
WHEREAS, Memphis Light, Gas and Water is the largest distributor of the Tennessee Valley Authority and represents 11% of its total electric load; and
WHEREAS, Memphis Light, Gas and Water pays the Tennessee Valley Authority $1.0 billion per year for energy consumed in their service area; and
WHEREAS, the approximately $1.2 million per year that it would cost the Tennessee Valley Authority to acquire the necessary cooling water from Memphis Light, Gas and Water would help defray water costs for the rest of the community; and
WHEREAS, the Tennessee Valley Authority has not entered into any contracts for purchase of replacement cooling water from Memphis Light, Gas and Water;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Memphis City Council believes that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County that the Tennessee Valley Authority should carefully consider using the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer rather than our precious Memphis Sand Aquifer; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Tennessee Valley Authority, if they determine by careful study that using the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer is not a good alternative, the Tennessee Valley Authority should then purchase the required cooling water for their new plant on Frank Pidgeon Industrial Park from Memphis Light, Gas and Water; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Tennessee Valley Authority should publicly publish its analysis and updated plans as a further Supplemental Environmental Assessment, providing opportunity for public review and comment;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Tennessee Valley Authority should report quarterly to Memphis Light, Gas and Water and to the City of Memphis, how much water it is using each month at the Allen Fossil Fuel Plant, for what purpose and from what source; such reporting should begin no later than July 1, 2017, or when the facility is operational, whichever is later; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution is delivered in the most expeditious manner, in advance of the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors meeting scheduled for August 25, 2016, to members of the Board of Directors of TVA, Mr. Bill Johnson, CEO and President, TVA. Additional copies should be sent to Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and U.S. House of Representatives members Rep. Steve Cohen and Stephen Fincher.