Some Germantown residents can flush their own lines

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 27, 2023 9:40 AM CT | Published: July 26, 2023 7:57 PM CT

Some Germantown residents could begin flushing their own service lines as early as Thursday.

City administrator Jason Huisman shared the news in a video update Wednesday evening.

“It could be as soon as tomorrow with good test results and TDEC concurrence,” Husiman said. “… And barring any unforeseen situations or additional, time-consuming requests, it could take up to several more days for us to get there.”

Germantown plans for water distribution through Sunday

Residents will be asked to flush their private home lines ahead of beginning normal water usage, and it will be a systematic process as to not compromise water pressure throughout Germantown. Detailed information about flushing will be communicated once Tennessee Department on Environment and Conservation grants permission.

Residents are asked to turn off irrigation systems until further notice to build pressure in the system. The city will notify residents when they can resume irrigation system use.

However, Huisman said it’s not possible to know when the order will be lifted for the entire city. The suburb is submitting tests multiple times per day and can only move as fast as TDEC allows, which Huisman didn’t name, but called “a regulatory body”.

The city has compiled a list of frequently asked questions, which can be accessed on the city’s website.

This comes after Germantown asked residents to limit their water usage to flushing toilets beginning Thursday due to a diesel leak from a generator used to power the Southern Avenue water treatment plant.

Huisman gave a detailed report of what has happened in the last week.

The leak happened Wednesday, July 19 during a refueling process, but the city investigated after residents complained of an odor coming from their faucets Thursday. The city began flushing hundreds of hydrants to remove contaminated water.

Germantown says 40% of water system flushed

“Since then, city staff has been working non-stop to mitigate the potential impact to the community, and has been focused on eliminating any traces of diesel fuel that had already entered the city’s water-distribution system as quickly as possible,” Huisman said.

Initially the city reported approximately 100 gallons of fuel, but Huisman said that’s an estimate and the city is working to find a better calculation of how much diesel spilled.

The generator at the location has been there since 1978 and has been in use regularly lately due to storms and power outages.

On Sunday, the city had good results from the areas where they had flushed hydrants. City leaders were hopeful to announce a plan Monday for flushing at residences and businesses. However, city staff was disappointed Monday afternoon when diesel was detected at a low level in the water.

“This was an unwelcome surprise as previous results had led us to believe that the fuel had already been removed from this location,” Huisman said.

Germantown residents frustrated over water crisis communication

Contractors from Ensafe, specialists in site remediation, began investigating the contamination site Monday. Then it was discovered diesel was entering through a 1 ¼-inch hole in a pipe that took treated water to an underground reservoir. The pipe was repaired Tuesday and the contaminated soil was disposed of in accordance with regulations.

Tests were determined to not have fuel in the water Tuesday afternoon and so the city began a flushing plan for its main lines. About 35 samples were collected, including those for Methodist Hospital, and they retuned “non-detect clear” results. Independent samples the Shelby County Health Department took at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday also showed clear results. 

The diesel leak appears to be a one-time event according to the city’s investigation and was not due to mechanical defects. However, Ensafe is implementing new measures near the generator to prevent something like this from happening again at the Southern Avenue plant.

Germantown water testing well, but no green light yet

The city doesn’t anticipate a longer-term scenario but is working with TDEC to open the new 500,000-gallon water tower in the southeast portion of the suburb. When TDEC authorizes the water tower, the inside of the tower could be sanitized and filled with water in about two weeks. If necessary, the Southern Avenue line could be taken offline, yet allow the city to maintain pressure.

“At this time, we don’t believe that will be necessary,” Husiman said. “Nonetheless, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected and we’re not taking any chances.”

Husiman, who also lives in Germantown, addressed the city’s communication efforts during the ongoing crisis.

“We have done our best to give you solid answers when we’ve had them, which has not been often, unfortunately,” he said. “City staff is doing our best to keep you informed without taking you along with us on the emotional roller coaster ride your city’s public servants have been on. Giving you the information you desire, and you should know at the right time, has been extremely difficult with so many moving targets and 180-degree changes by the minute.” 


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Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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