Sewage spills, Suwannee River Basin, Dec. 2019 – Sept. 2020

Rochelle, Ashburn, Tifton, Adel, Moody AFB, Valdosta, and Quitman all spilled sewage into the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia from December 2019 through September 2020. But only one of those spills since December is likely to explain any contamination we’ve been seeing on the Withlacoochee River.

[Little, New, Withlacoochee, Summary, Alapaha River]
Little, New, Withlacoochee, Summary, Alapaha River

Yes, there were also some spills in Florida in the Suwannee River Basin, but those are actually harder to interpret, and they were mostly small, so they will have to wait.

At least Florida lets people sign up for pollution notices by county as they happen. Georgia has no such signup. So I’ve modified the scripts WWALS uses to display changes in the Georgia Sewage Spills Report to also send me an email alert.

Here are the Georgia spills, where, what streams they went into, and how far upstream that was:

2019-12-01–2020-09-30.html by WWALS Watershed Coalition; see http://wwals.net/issues/vww/ga-spills
FACILITY NAMEBEGIN DATECOUNTYCITYOVERFLOW LOCATIONQUANTITY GALLONSOVERFLOW TYPEPERMIT NUMBERSPILL SOURCESPILL PRIMARY CAUSERIVER BASINWATERWAY IMPACTED
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VALDOSTA, CITY OF (WITHLACOOCHEE WPCP)2019-12-03LowndesValdosta1800 Block of Norman Drive – Valdosta.7,592,910Raw SewageGA0033235Collection SystemOperator errorSuwanneeSugar Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2019-12-21TurnerAshburnRockhouse Rd and Sylvia Dr.5,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeHat Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2019-12-23TurnerAshburnRockhouse Rd and Sylvia Dr.50,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeHat Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2019-12-30TurnerAshburnRockhouse Rd and Sylvia Dr.40,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeHat Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2020-02-06TurnerAshburnRockhouse Rd and Sylvia Dr.300,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherOcmulgeeHat Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2020-02-07TurnerAshburnMLK Lift Station2,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherOcmulgeeAshburn Branch
VALDOSTA, CITY OF (WITHLACOOCHEE WPCP)2020-02-10LowndesValdosta2400 Block of North Patterson Street200Raw SewageGA0033235Collection SystemGreaseSuwanneeTwo Mile Branch
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2020-02-13TurnerAshburnRockhouse Rd and Sylvia Dr.40,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherOcmulgeeHat Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2020-02-13TurnerAshburnRockhouse Rd and Sylvia Dr90,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherUpper OcmulgeeHat Creek
Ashburn, City of (Airport WPCP)2020-02-25TurnerAshburnRock House Rd and Sylvia Dr.40,000Raw SewageGA0025852Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeHat Creek
Rochelle, City of (Northwest WPCP)2020-03-04WilcoxRochelleManhole just upstream from the Lime Town lift station.0Raw SewageGA0024244Lift StationSuwanneeUnnamed Tributary to Reynold’s Creek
Rochelle, City of (Northwest WPCP)2020-03-04WilcoxRochelleManhole just upstream from the Lime Town lift station.1,400Raw SewageGA0024244Lift StationSuwanneeUnnamed Tributary to Reynold’s Creek
Rochelle, City of (Northwest WPCP)2020-03-04WilcoxRochelleManhole just upstream from the Lime Town lift station.9,500Raw SewageGA0024244Lift StationSuwanneeUnnamed Tributary to Reynold’s Creek
Rochelle, City of (Northwest WPCP)2020-03-04WilcoxRochelleManhole just upstream of the Gin House lift station1,000Raw SewageGA0024244Lift StationWet weatherSuwanneeUnnamed Tributary to Reynold’s Creek
Rochelle, City of (Northwest WPCP)2020-03-04WilcoxRochelleManhole just upstream of the Gin House lift station8,500Raw SewageGA0024244Lift StationWet weatherSuwanneeUnnamed Tributary to Reynold’s Creek
Adel, City of (Adel WPCP)2020-04-23CookAdel102 N Brookside Drive, Adel6,000Raw SewageGA0024911Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeBear Creek
Adel, City of (Adel WPCP)2020-04-24CookAdel301 & 307 South Brookside Drive, Adel5,000Raw SewageGA0024911Collection SystemEquipment failureSuwanneeBear Creek
Quitman, City of (Quitman WPCP)2020-04-24DeKalbQuitmanHwy 76, Quitman GA87,000Raw SewageGAJ020022Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeOkapilco Creek
Tifton, City of (New River WPCP)2020-06-18TiftTifton1412 Love Avenue, Tifton4,000Raw SewageGA0048470Collection SystemRagsSuwanneeNew River Storm Drain
Moody Air Force Base2020-08-17LowndesValdostaOn Main Base, 100 yards east of Hwy 125 adjacent to Beatty Creek in Valdosta, GA.10,000Raw SewageGA0020001Lift StationPower failureSuwanneeBeatty Creek

TotalVALDOSTA, CITY OF (WITHLACOOCHEE WPCP)7,612,110
TotalAshburn, City of (Airport WPCP)567,000
TotalQuitman, City of (Quitman WPCP)87,000
TotalRochelle, City of (Northwest WPCP)20,400
TotalAdel, City of (Adel WPCP)11,000
TotalMoody Air Force Base10,000
TotalTifton, City of (New River WPCP)4,000

Table summarized by WWALS from Sewage Spills Report by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD).

Rochelle, GA

Let’s start at the top, with the northernmost spills, in Rochelle, GA.

[Rochelle spills]
Rochelle spills

Probably the first two Rochelle spills listed are the same, since GA-EPD puts zero (0) in until they get an update with a number. I don’t know where Lime Town lift station is. My best guess is at the litle blue marker just above and to the right of the word Rochelle in the middle of them map.

The Gin House lift station was described in a Notice of Intent to sue by EarthJustice on behalf of numerous local citizens back in 2013, so I have pretty good idea of where it is: at the corner of Sook Road and Gin House Road, indicated by the white-highlighted marker on the above map. Both of those are next to what EarthJustice called the Northern Ditch, which flows into Reynold’s Creek, which goes to Mill Creek, which ends up in the Alapaha River, more than 180 miles upstream from the Suwannee River.

We’ve reported on Rochelle spills before.

Here’s hoping Rochelle finally gets a grip on its sewage spill problem. But none of that could have possibly affected anything we’ve been seeing downstream lately.

Ashburn, GA

A bunch more spills were in the Alapaha River Basin, from Ashburn.

[Ashburn to Rochelle]
Ashburn to Rochelle

One of them was pretty bad: 300,000 gallons. And the Ashburn Airport WPCP spills addded up to 565,000 gallons, into Hat Creek, which runs into the Alapaha River.

[Ashburn Airport WPCP]
Ashburn Airport WPCP

We’ve reported on that Ashburn spill location before. It’s been a chronic problem for many years.

Here’s hoping Ashburn gets a grip on its spill problem, too. But Hat Creek joins the Alapaha more than 150 river miles upstream from the Suwannee River. Not only can that not possibly have affected the Withlacoochee River, it is unlikely to have affected the Alapaha River, except maybe where the Alapaha River Water Trail starts at US 82, thirty miles downstream from Hat Creek.

[Alapaha River Water Trail]
Alapaha River Water Trail
Rochelle, GA, in the WWALS map of the Alapaha River Water Trail.

There was one more Ashburn spill, from the MLK lift station, which has also been a chronic problem. That spill went one into a tributary of Ashburn Branch, which goes into the Little River.

[Ashburn MLK lift station]
Ashburn MLK lift station

I’m calling that tributary Fudge Branch, since it’s next to Fudge Street, which I suspect is a euphemism like Sugar Creek.

But that spill was small, only 2,000 gallons. Any spill is too much, but Ashburn Branch joins the Little River about 94 miles upstream of the Withlacoochee River, and that’s still 62 miles upstream from the Suwannee River, or about 156 miles in all. There’s no way that small Ashburn spill has caused any of the problems we’ve been seeing on the Withlacoochee River.

[Ashburn in Withlacoochee River Water Trail]
Ashburn in Withlacoochee River Water Trail

Tifton spill

Tifton had one spill, of 4,000 gallons, into the New River. And Tifton provided a precise street address, 1412 Love Avenue!

[Next to the New River]
Next to the New River

That’s not good, but it was also probably about 32 river miles upstream from the Withlacoochee River, which the New River joins about 100 river miles upstream from the Suwannee. That Tifton spill was only 4,000 gallons. I won’t say it couldn’t affect the Withlacoochee, and I will check the E. coli records to see if there’s any time correlation, but it certainly could not have caused many of our recent problems.

It’s also much less than Tifton has spilled before.

Adel spills

Adel had a couple of spills, adding up to 11,000 gallons, into Bear Creek. Adel also provide precise street addresses!

[Next to Bear Creek, s. of GA 76]
Next to Bear Creek, s. of GA 76

But that’s about 7 miles upstream from the Withlacoochee River, and that’s about 97 miles upstream from the Suwannee River, or more than 100 river miles total. I’ll look at the E. coli records, but I’ll be surprised if there’s much coincidence in time with these Adel spills.

Moody Air Force Base spill

In August, Moody AFB spilled 10,000 gallons into Beatty Branch, which runs into Cat Creek, which runs into the Withlacoochee River.

[Moody AFB spill next to Beatty Branch]
Moody AFB spill next to Beatty Branch

OK, Cat Creek actually joins the Withlacoochee River inside the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail, so that Moody AFB spill is more likely to have caused at least some problems.

Unlike two sewage spills Moody had a year before, in August 2019, Moody AFB did not post a press release or news story about this August 2020 spill. Good thing GA-EPD publishes these reports, eh?

Valdosta spills

The reason for picking December 2019 as the start date for this summary was of course the huge Valdosta spill of that month. Clearly none of these other spills can rival that one.

The table only shows one of three different reports Valdosta made to EPD on that one. The first two blamed it on a contractor. They finally settled on “Operator error.”

Anyway, that spill is no longer news.

Valdosta has reported one other spill since then, of 200 gallons due to Fats Oils and Grease (FOG).

[Valdosta N Patterson Twomile Branch FOG spill]
Valdosta N Patterson Twomile Branch FOG spill

Our WWALS roving agents saw it, but eventually Valdosta reported it, and we blogged that at the time.

Any spill is bad, but 200 gallons isn’t going to affect the Withlacoochee River much.

[Valdosta big 2019 spill into Sugar Creek]
Valdosta big 2019 spill into Sugar Creek

That little spill was nowhere near the big one, which was not at Valdosta’s new (since 2016) Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

Quitman

Since almost all of the above spills were unlikely to have much downstream effect, what could? Quitman.

[Quitman spill near GA 76 into Okapilco Creek]
Quitman spill near GA 76 into Okapilco Creek

87,000 gallons of raw sewage is a lot for little Okapilco Creek. I’m guessing by “Hwy 76, Quitman GA” the actual location meant was Quitman’s settling ponds off of Highland Ave., visible on this map just east of GA 76. That’s not the same as Quitman’s Land Application Site, which is south of US 84, just west of Okapilco Creek. A settling pond spill would match a similar episode back in January 2019.

I suspect one of the Withlacoochee River contamination episodes we’ve seen was caused by that spill. More in another blog post.

All those Withlacoochee and Little River basin spills are visible in this map.

[Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail]
Ashburn, Tifton, Adel, Moody AFB, Valdosta, and Quitman, in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

Valdosta is of course still by far the winner, but not recently.

[Total Georgia spills, Dec. 2019 - Sept. 2020]
Total Georgia spills, Dec. 2019 – Sept. 2020

The record holder since that big Valdosta spill is Ashburn.

But the city most likely to have affected the Withlacoochee River is Quitman.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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