Arsenic, lead, fluoride found in groundwater under Memphis power plant

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - High levels of arsenic, lead, and fluoride were found in groundwater under a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plant in Memphis, according to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

The groundwater samples were collected from the uppermost aquifers at the TVA plant, which is approximately 50 feet below the ground.

There were six monitoring wells with arsenic levels consistently above the recommended drinking water criteria. Lead levels exceeding the state drinking water criteria were found in one monitoring well.

"We do not have any reason to believe at this point that the Memphis Sands Aquifer has been impacted, and we are committed to working to ensure that the issue is appropriately identified and remediated so that remains the case," TDEC communications director Eric Ward said.

After receiving the higher-than-normal readings, TDEC ordered TVA to install additional groundwater monitoring wells and collect more groundwater samples to determine the extent of the contamination.

TDEC also told TVA to conduct a specific groundwater investigation at the plant that reported the contamination to determine the source and extent of the problem.

"We are confident the contaminants found in TVA wells at the Allen Fossil Plant are not impacting drinking water," Ward said. "Out of an abundance of caution, we have requested Memphis Light, Gas and Water to sample its treated water in order to give that assurance to customers. We have also requested MLGW sample around its wells in the Memphis Sands Aquifer to establish a baseline for future comparison."

TVA issued the following comment about the testing process:

"A few shallow groundwater monitoring wells near the Allen fossil plant East Ash Pond, sampled as part of our coal ash pond closure program, show elevated levels of arsenic.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) agreed to sample the groundwater from the water wells entering the water treatment plant for metals such as arsenic and lead. MLGW will also sample the treated water distributed to MLGW customers, according to a release from TVA.

On Wednesday, MLGW released the following statement:

MLGW's Davis Water Pumping Station and its associated well field is located two miles from the site where the arsenic in a shallow well was found by TVA. MLGW pumps its water from a deep aquifer called the Memphis Sand. We do not expect to find elevated levels of arsenic in the water we pump from our wells. We are having samples from our wells analyzed. We should have results of that analysis late next week. MLGW is working closely with TDEC.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland took to social media to say that his administration is taking the report of contaminated water seriously.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.