What we know — and don’t know — about the water in Germantown

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 25, 2023 6:09 PM CT | Published: July 25, 2023 2:08 PM CT

As a community service, The Daily Memphian is providing this story free for all readers.

After five days of an ongoing water crisis in Germantown, the city’s mayor answered questions from the media Monday, July 24. But some information remains unclear, including how long Germantown residents may remain under a “no drink, no bathe, only flush” order. 

Germantown officials previously revealed that an estimated 100 gallons of diesel fuel from a generator leaked into the city’s water supply, prompting the city to tell residents on Thursday, July 20, that they should not drink the water. 

Diesel fuel leak affected 4.2 million gallons of water in Germantown

Since then, residents living east of Forest Hill-Irene Road are no longer under water restrictions — that represents about 20% of Germantown. 

The rest of the city remains under the water order, and it continues to affect residents and businesses

Below is a series of questions and answers about the ongoing situation. 

When did the issue with the water begin?

According to Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo, the first indications came from Germantown residents themselves.

“Once ... our residents shared that information that they smelled an odor, and it does smell like diesel, they reported that to us and we immediately responded,” he said during Monday’s press conference. “Knowing what day, time, precisely, I can’t answer that, but we would estimate that it was within a day or so.”

Germantown restaurants take hit with water order, power outages

How long do officials think the city will be under water restrictions?

That’s currently unknown. 

“It is one day at a time,” the mayor said Monday. “Yesterday, we thought it a good day, because we had many ‘clears’ on the samples, and then today, a few there were not ‘all clear.’ 

“Then we were able to release the sign that we were ‘all clear’ in eastern part of Forest Hill-Irene Road so that was good for us, but tomorrow is another day and a new day.”

What is the city doing to address the issue?

The City of Germantown is continuing to test the water alongside the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. 

The city’s Eastern Water Tower, which has been under construction, is also about ready to go online. It could be used to help mitigate the issue. 

Germantown allows water usage for some residents

“If we’re able to do that,” Palazzolo said, “we can pump from Johnson Road and fill up our tower on the eastern side of town. Then we can put our western tower, which is on Southern Avenue, we can take it offline, and we can do a full mitigation.”

How long will it take for an investigation into how this happened?

That’s also unclear at this time. 

“We would need to get our system back up and running,” Palazzolo said. “That’s our primary concern. ... We will review after that.”

Why are residents east of Forest Hill-Irene Road no longer under water restrictions?

The leak occurred at the city’s Southern Avenue water plant. 

The area east of Forest Hill-Irene is serviced by the Johnson Road plant, and that plant is able to push out clean, non-contaminated water. 

Letter to the Editor: Questions for Germantown leadership about water

Are there any other measures the city is taking to help fix this problem? 

“It’s a combination again with our partners from TDEC,” the mayor said Monday. “We had a tight circle around the actual point of containment, and we were directed to go there and draw a larger radius. Then, we get reports from our residents, we will send a testing crew there and then they’ll draw a sample. We also have a team of firemen and public workers that are going out when a resident has a smell or an odor of diesel. They will go out and open those fire hydrants in that neighborhood.”


Germantown Germantown water
Kambui Bomani

Kambui Bomani

Kambui Bomani is the general assignment and breaking news reporter for The Daily Memphian. He is a graduate of Jackson State University’s multimedia journalism program and earned a master’s degree in digital journalism from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. His work has been published in Pro Football Focus, The Southside Stand, HBCU Legends, FanSided and Wisconsin Sports Heroics.


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