Monday, July 2, 2018

New Well Regs Called 'Victory,' 'Missed Opporunity'

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 9:00 AM


click to enlarge TVA workers install water quality monitoring wells near the Allen Fossil Plant. - TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • TVA workers install water quality monitoring wells near the Allen Fossil Plant.

Local lawmakers called new well regulations passed last week a “victory,” but some local environmental groups say the new rules don’t go far enough.

The Shelby County Groundwater Control Board (SCGCB) began working on new regulations for wells last year after a controversy arose over the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) plan to drill into the Memphis Sand Aquifer to cool its new power plant here.

Under the new rules, wells drawing more than 360,000 gallons of water per day must be approved by the water board. Also, new rules require public hearings on some new well permits.
“I am glad the board has decided to move forward based on the recommendation Senator [Lee] Harris and I made in our proposed legislation last year,” state Sen. Brian Kelsey said in a statement. “This action is a victory in the fight to protect our drinking water now and for years to come.”

Harris and Kelsey worked on a bill that would have created a Memphis Sand Aquifer Regional Management Board, and prohibited the drilling of wells that would drawmore than 10,000 gallons of water per day from the aquifer without the board’s approval.

Harris said the new guidelines help “make sure the aquifer is preserved for future generations.”

“These new rules ensure that there is public input in this process and that was our goal from the start,” Harris said.

click to enlarge (l) Ward Archer of Protect Our Aquifer displays some of the sand particles which,  at several deep layers (this sample from 400 feet down) filter the near-pristine drinking water enjoyed by Memphis and Shelby County; (r) Jenna Stonecypher and Linda Archer sell a T-shirt to the Sierra Club's Dennis Lynch. The shirt, bearing the non-profit group's logo, says, "Save Water/Drink Beer." - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • (l) Ward Archer of Protect Our Aquifer displays some of the sand particles which, at several deep layers (this sample from 400 feet down) filter the near-pristine drinking water enjoyed by Memphis and Shelby County; (r) Jenna Stonecypher and Linda Archer sell a T-shirt to the Sierra Club's Dennis Lynch. The shirt, bearing the non-profit group's logo, says, "Save Water/Drink Beer."


But some don’t think the board’s rules go far enough.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club and Protect Our Aquifer issued the following statements last week:

“The outcome of today’s meeting was a missed opportunity by the board to enact stronger protections to conserve our county’s source of drinking water,” said Ward Archer, president of Protect Our Aquifer. “The board didn’t address the potential for excessive extraction by golf courses or water bottling companies, or the fact that industrial well users get their water for free while most residents pay for (Memphis, Light, Gas & Water) water. ”It is apparent that the board has strayed away from its mission to protect our community’s greatest natural resource, the Memphis Sand Aquifer.”
Scott Banbury, conservation coordinator for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club said the board must do more.

“Given what we know about the vulnerability of the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the TVA Allen permits should serve as a cautionary tale,” Banbury said. ”The board undertook these rule revisions to address the shortcomings that constrained them to authorize the drilling to TVA’s wells that threatened our county’s drinking water source.
“The Board must do more in order to conserve and protect the aquifer for future use.”

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