Germantown tap water unsafe to drink after diesel fuel leak, city officials say

Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 4:06 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (WMC) - Germantown water customers are advised not to consume tap water until further notice, according to City of Germantown officials.

City representatives say the order could be lifted as early as Friday; however, the city has established plans to distribute bottled water should the situation extend into the weekend.

The city says it has received seven reports of foul-tasting and strong-smelling water Thursday. Samples were taken from each reported location for testing.

The unprecedented water contamination closed businesses and sent people on the hunt for bottled water.

“We got power back around lunchtime today and now we can’t use water,” said Germantown resident Whitney Taylor. “Great times.”

Taylor and her family just hit the Kroger on Farmington Boulevard to replace all their food that went bad after their recent power outage. Now, they may have to head back to their relative’s home for water.

The store was completely wiped out by the rush of customers.

“Folks that don’t have water are just in a really tough position. I think they need to take better protective steps to prevent something like that happening,” said Germantown resident Paul Robinson.

Robinson says he stocked up on water earlier this week.

City officials say the leak was caused by Tuesday’s severe thunderstorm, which knocked out power to thousands around Shelby County, including the water treatment facility on Southern Avenue.

At 2:45 p.m., it was determined that a generator being used to power the water treatment facility during the power outage was leaking diesel fuel into an underground reservoir.

The Germantown Fire Department and other regional emergency management agencies promptly rushed to the scene.

Assistant City Administrator Andy Sanders says approximately 100 gallons of diesel fuel leaked into the groundwater in total.

“We’ve been using fire hydrants in order to expel that water that had the diesel fuel leach into it out of the system,” said Sanders.

Sanders says the city’s two water plants can produce up to 12 million gallons daily.

Until further notice, Germantown water customers are advised that the only suitable use for tap water is for flushing toilets.

There’s no ETA on how long until the system is cleaned, but the city will be continually testing the water.

This does not apply to Germantown residents who get their water from Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW).

A Water Boil Advisory has not been issued.

Updates will be provided.

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