VOL. 118 | NO. 151 | Monday, August 23, 2004
Officials Study Developments Effect on Water
The Daily News
As commercial real estate development continues to flourish in
Metro Memphis, some local developers believe the trend could have an impact, if
only a slight one, on the quality of the areas groundwater.
Pristine quality? The
Memphis sand aquifers, the main source of the regions water supply, have long
been known for pumping through water of pristine quality, and the layer of clay
above them is believed to be almost impenetrable, said developer Gary Myers of Gary
Myers Co. However, Myers said, there still seems to
be contamination showing up in some of the water wells.
So somehow, things are getting down in there, he said.
Others, including developer David Goodwin Jr. of the David
Goodwin Cos., are less certain. Goodwin, who described Memphis water supply as
one of the best assets of the region, said his first impression is that
developments effect on the areas water quality is negligible. But he said the
possibility for contamination does exist, and if it becomes a problem, it would
be something that certainly needs to be addressed.
Influencing development. The
Memphis sand aquifers pump almost 205 million gallons of water each day. And
the idea of possible contamination of the groundwater system has already been
influencing development in areas such as Collierville, where development
director Harvey Matheny said officials follow a strict land use control plan in
determining if development in a particular area might affect the water system.
Our land use patterns dont support the types of industries
youd consider to be pollutant-type industries, he said. The zoning and land
use plans we have arent really the type that would create a detriment to the
But though Matheny said Collierville doesnt have many of
the types of businesses that pose a potential threat to the groundwater system,
locations for new developments are still monitored on a regular basis.
Always some effect. In addition to Collierville,
areas east of Memphis are also home to recharge zones of the Memphis sand
aquifer, areas where rainwater can be absorbed into
the system and there is no protective layer of clay above the aquifers.
Matheny said the exact boundaries of those recharge zones,
however, have not been clearly defined, and thus the impact of development in
those areas is a bit difficult to narrow down.
However, its safe to say that development always has some effect
on water quality, Matheny said. Aside from developments potential effect on areas
near the recharge zones, other factors could affect the areas water quality, including
water retention problems around developments like shopping centers. There,
water runoff could possibly find its way into the groundwater system, said Tim
Overly, who oversees water and wastewater issues for Collierville.
I dont know if Memphis has seen anything like that or not,
but those would be the potential areas for contamination because of windows in
the clay layer, Overly said.
Stormwater problem. Whats more, Jerry Collins, director
of public works for Memphis, said litter is posing a problem for the quality of
stormwater in the city. And when it rains in some
locations east of Memphis, he said, that rainwater decades later can end up in
the aquifers that supply drinking water.
Basically what people throw on the street, in the instance
of rainfall, it goes down into the storm drain inlets and ends up in areas like
creeks, he said. That is a problem.
However, theres no question that quality of stormwater runoff is better today in terms of pollutants
than it has been in many years, Collins added. Thats primarily due to the fact
that there are controls in place commonly used now that were not used 20 years
Keeping out pollutants. Greg
Parker, supervisor of the water quality branch of the Memphis and Shelby County
Health Department, said his department regularly looks at new development
throughout the city and in the outlying county to determine what effect, if
any, it might have on the areas water quality.
In general, we really dont want to have anything that
would allow man-made pollutants into our drinking water, he said.
But because of the large volume of water pumped daily
through the regions aquifers, Parker said, officials will remain vigilant.
And as Memphis and its suburbs continue to grow, officials will
continue to monitor where new developments are going in and their potential
impact on the groundwater supply.