Board lets stand TVA permits to take water from Memphis aquifer

After a daylong hearing Wednesday, the Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board upheld permits authorizing the Tennessee Valley Authority to tap the Memphis Sand aquifer for water to cool a Memphis power plant, reports the Commercial Appeal.

By a 7-0 vote, the board denied an appeal by the Sierra Club of the Health Department’s decision to grant the final two of five well permits sought by TVA.

Environmentalists had warned during the hearing Wednesday that the planned use of Memphis Sand aquifer water to cool a power plant could endanger public drinking supplies, while local officials defended their approval of wells for the facility.

The hearing centered on the Sierra Club’s appeal of county permits authorizing two of five wells sought by the TVA for its $975 million Allen Combined Cycle Plant under construction in Southwest Memphis. TVA plans to pump some 3.5 million gallons of water daily to cool the natural gas-fired plant, which will be a cleaner-burning alternative to the nearby coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant slated for retirement in 2018.

“We’ve had a plentiful water supply. However, there’s no guarantee that plentiful water supply will continue…,” said Webb Brewer, an attorney representing the Sierra Club.

“The new power plant will be a good thing from an ecological standpoint, but we do not need to waste water to operate that plant.”

But during his opening statement, Assistant County Attorney Carter Gray said the TVA wells met the requirements set by local regulations. Consequently, Health Department officials “were required” to issue permits for them, he said.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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