TVA water tests show no deep well contamination beneath Memphis coal plant

TVA water tests show no deep well contamination beneath Memphis coal plant

Despite high levels of lead in shallow pool, contaminants not found in deeper pool

March 7th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

TVA's Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

As the Tennessee Valley Authority prepares to start up a new natural gas plant to replace its 62-year-old Allen Fossil plant in Memphis, the federal utility said today that underground water tests around the Allen coal plant did not show that contaminated water from a shallow well had leaked into the deeper Memphis aquifer.

Water tests last spring found arsenic, fluoride and lead among the contaminants in the shallow upper Alluvial aquifer at the Allen Fossil Plant.

TVA told the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation last year that arsenic levels in one well that were more than 300 times higher than federal drinking water standards. Lead levels in the water were also higher than federal safety standards.

The contaminants apparently leached into the water from nearby ponds containing slag, ash and other coal residues generated by the burning of coal at the Allen plant over the pas six decades.

In response to the finding of the pollutants, TVA, under the oversight of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, began a remedial investigation into the nature and extent of the contamination last year.

TVA submitted its remedial investigation report to TDEC this week which TVA officials said confirms that arsenic, lead and other constituents have not migrated into the Memphis Aquifer.

In a statement today, TVA said it will work with TDEC to determine if any additional investigation is necessary, then begin evaluating clean-up alternatives for the contamination in the shallow well.

TVA also said that no contaminants were found in TVA's Memphis Aquifer production wells at the natural gas plant.

"However, TVA remains committed to not operating the wells at this time," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said. "Rather than using the production wells, TVA has been working on contingency plans to supply cooling water to the gas plant and ensure the facility can begin operating later this year as scheduled."

TVA is building a new natural gas plant to replace the coal-fired plant at Allen that TVA first built in 1956.

TVA said it will buy water for the plant operations from MLGW for daily operations, build two, 2.5 million-gallon water tanks at the Allen site to help meet peak power demands, and construction a second redundant water feed to increase reliability of the water supply for the plant.