Groundwater discharge from an aquifer test at the Tennessee Valley Authority Allen Combined Cycle Plant in October.
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials said Friday they are “committed to not using the wells” in the Memphis Sand Aquifer a day after environmental groups urged a local agency to revoke the utility’s license for the wells.
TVA was given permits by the Shelby County Health Department to drill five wells into the aquifer, the source of the city’s famously put drinking water. The utility planned to pump about 3.5 million gallons from the aquifer each day to cool its new energy plant here.
However, TVA changed course on the plan after tests found high levels of arsenic and lead at the site of the wells. TVA now buys its cooling water from Memphis Light, Gas & Water.
Still, the Southern Environmental Law Center (on behalf of the Sierra Club and Protect Our Aquifer), made a formal request to the health department Thursday to revoke those original permits and to not re-issue them. The groups argued that regulations on well permits have changed since the original permits were allowed.
TVA officials did not directly address the groups’ request in a statement Friday. But they did say “we are part of Memphis and want to help preserve its most precious natural resources.”
Here is TVA’s statement on the matter in full:
“It is important to note that TVA has committed to not using the wells in the Memphis Sand Aquifer at the Allen Combined Cycle Natural Gas Plant. The wells have been tested to monitor water quality and the results, all indicating no plant-related contamination, have been provided to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and county water board. TVA purchases all water necessary to operate the plant from MLGW. In addition, we have built four large water tanks at our Allen Gas Plant to store water for peak seasons (winter and summer). TVA’s Allen Gas Plant represents a $1 billion initial investment in the local economy.
“In addition, we aim to be inclusive and to hear from the community regarding our environmental actions at the former Allen Fossil Plant site. We are providing opportunities for public comment on our Environmental Investigation Plan and the Environmental Impact Statement, both of which provide a process for carefully reviewing the potential environmental impacts from plant operations or the various options for closure of the ash impoundments at the site. More details are available at www.tva.com/nepa and https://www.tva.com/Environment/Environmental-Stewardship/TDEC-Order.
”We are a part of Memphis and want to help preserve its most precious natural resources.”