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TVA briefs MLGW on efforts to protect the Memphis Sand Aquifer

The Tennessee Valley Authority on Wednesday detailed to the Memphis Light, Gas, and Water board of commissioners the measures the utility has taken over the last five years to protect the Memphis Sand Aquifer and restore the retired Allen Fossil Plant for the community’s benefit.

MLGW invited TVA to address its board after the University of Memphis Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research’s recent presentation of a graduate student’s preliminary research for a thesis that suggested TVA’s Allen site was potentially impacting the Memphis aquifer and the Davis Wellfield.

Asserting that TVA’s commitment to protect the Memphis aquifer is ongoing, J. Cedric Adams, principal project manager at the Allen Fossil Plant, said after his presentation that the commitment has “driven every decision we have made to restore the retired Allen Fossil Plant for future economic development.”

The Memphis Sand Aquifer is the city and region’s main source of fresh drinking water.

In a release about the presentation to MLGW, TVA emphasized that the presentation by the University of Memphis Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER) put forth a “tentative conclusion” alleging there is a hydrologic pathway from the Allen site to the Horn Lake Cutoff – a surface water drainage channel. 

According to TVA, CAESER provided no data to support its conclusion and had declined the utility’s request for it and a report.

“It is important to note that publicly available data shows that activities at the Allen Fossil Plant have not impacted the Memphis aquifer,” Adams said. 

“Additionally, surface water runoff from Allen does not go to the Horn Lake Cutoff (HLCO), all water streams at the site are managed and permitted as required, and the CAESER study does not consider that HLCO receives runoff from multiple industries and properties.”

TVA maintains that since 2017 it has aggressively investigated site conditions and developed a comprehensive restoration plan based on site-specific data and research under the independent direction and supervision of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). 

The plan, Adams and others assert, protects the aquifer, “safely removes coal ash from the site as part of the closure process, remediates localized groundwater conditions, repurposes the site for future use, and continues robust groundwater monitoring.”

The restoration project, Adams said, “demonstrates our steadfast commitment to the community and our shared desire to protect vital natural resources like the Memphis aquifer.”

During the presentation, TVA pledged continued communication through quarterly updates about the restoration project to TDEC, MLGW, the City of Memphis, Port Commission and Shelby County.

(For more information visit tva.com/allen.)

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