TVA Must Get State's Permission Before it Begins Using its Aquifer Wells


After the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced Thursday that it would not start using its new wells drilled into the source of Memphis' drinking water until after an investigation is completed, officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) told the Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board (SCGCB) that the department has "good faith" that TVA will effectively investigate into how its new wells will affect drinking water.

Before TVA will be able to start pumping water from the wells, TDEC officials say they will work with the Shelby County government and citizens to make sure the integrity of the Memphis Sand Aquifer will be maintained. "As a state agency, we need very convincing evidence that the contamination in the upper aquifer does not seep into the lower levels," TDEC's assistant commissioner Chuck Head told concerned citizens and the SCGCB on Thursday.

TDEC is working with TVA as it completes its groundwater investigation, which will determine if pumping water from the new wells will make contaminates like arsenic flow deeper into the aquifer where drinking water is stored.

Head says TDEC will make sure the public is involved with the process to determine if the contamination threat is insignificant enough for the wells to be drilled into and that TVA has agreed to not begin using the wells until TDEC has approved it.

Individuals present at the meeting raised questions to both the board and officials with TDEC about the ways to prevent TVA from using the wells all together. However, Head, echoed by the board says that is not a likely option.

Members of the board say outside of TVA's investigation, there isn't much the board can do, as it does not have a budget to do so.

But to mitigate future concerns with drilling, the board discussed draft language for a set of regulations to update the Shelby County Well Construction Code.

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