Update 2020-01-31: Cleaner at Okapilco and Piscola Creeks and Withlacoochee River 2020-01-29.
There was good news, but actual responsibility or accountability by Valdosta was hard to find, at the January 8, 2020, evening meeting of the Florida counties Task Force with the Valdosta City Council. It was attended by a record number of citizens from Florida and Georgia, many of whom were quite vocal. You can see it all in these WWALS videos.
The good news included stormwater infiltration into the sewer system reduced by 25%, faster remediation of manholes, and the long-awaited catch basin for the WWTP is permitted. Yes, Valdosta has battery or generator backup for its lift stations and the two Wastewater Treatment Plants.
Per incoming Mayor Scott James Matheson’s request, I repeatedly described the Mayor’s Paddle organized by WWALS, then upcoming on January 18th. It went well, and we got a lot of good press out of it. Yet not a single person from Valdosta Utilities, nor the City Manager, paddled with WWALS and the Mayor. Valdosta even refused to test the Withlacoochee River before their own Mayor paddled: “We did what we were required to do.”
The new Mayor, at this meeting one day before being inaugurated, said he had met with the city staff and was impressed, but expected to hold them accountable. Many of us look forward to that.
In response to a question by Valdosta resident Tom Potter about whether legal liability was tied to the contractor, Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber said Valdosta takes “full responsibility.” But practically in the same breath he added, “but not full financial responsibility,” passing that off to the contractor.