Nov 16, 2017

EPA Uncovers Groundwater Contamination in Memphis, Tenn.

High levels of Perchloroethylene discovered near the Memphis Sands aquifer

Former dry cleaners leaves groundwater contamination in Memphis, Tenn.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently found the chemical Perchloroethylene, known as Perc, in Memphis, Tenn., wells located only 1.5 miles from the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division’s (MLGW) Sheahan Pumping Station. The EPA tests revealed elevated levels of Perc in 2 of 6 groundwater wells 150 ft. below ground with concentrations of Perc 28 times higher than the federal drinking water standard.

In July, the EPA added the site— a former Memphis dry cleaners— to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL). From 1950 to the mid 1990’s the site operated as Madison Appliance & Home Laundry while heavily contaminating the area’s soil and surrounding groundwater with Perc, a common chemical used for dry cleaning that is linked to both cancer and neurological disorders.

As the EPA continues their investigations regarding the extent of the chemical contamination, the MLGW disputes the agencies claims that the chemical was found in the nearby Memphis Sands aquifer. The MLGW said that they pump water 500 to 1200 ft. below ground whereas the EPA tests were at 150 ft. below ground. MLGW President Jerry Collins assured the community, “At this point there is no risk to the public,” says Collins. “We have never found any volatile organic compounds in the water coming from the MLGW wells in the Sheahan well field, and if we ever did it's likely that we would shut whatever well it was coming from down and no longer use it."