Tag Archives: Law

Video: Save the Okefenokee; Stop the Mine!

Great video by Georgia River Network asking you to help save the Okefenokee Swamp from a proposed strip mine:

[Jobs]
Jobs

Here’s the video:


Video: Save the Okefenokee; Stop the Mine!
Video by Georgia River Network, thanks to GRN E.D. Rena Peck Stricker.

Gators need water. Continue reading

Send your comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order –Albany Herald

In the Albany Herald, May 9, 2020, Deadline set to comment on Valdosta EPD Enforcement Order,

The Enforcement Order includes a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., who was among the WWALS members who met with the city of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The rest of the article is from the WWALS press release.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

This is not the kind of black water we want:

[Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River.]
Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River. By Tim Bonvechio.

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
http://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order Continue reading

Comments open on Georgia call for Valdosta to pay six-figure fine for spilling sewage in river –Georgia Recorder

‘“I commend EPD for doing an order that’s better than I expected, better than a lot of people expected” [Suwannee Riverkeeper John S.] Quarterman said. “There’s still room for improvement.”’

You can comment on the consent order by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
Mr. Lewis Hays, Manager, Watershed Compliance,
Georgia Environmental Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
Atlanta, GA 30334
Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
404-463-4953

[Green at the Confluence]
Sara Jones with the Suwannee Riverkeeper prepares to test the water at the Withlacoochee River following a December sewage spill. A Georgia Environmental Protection Division consent order calls for the city of Valdosta to pay a $122,000 fine for sewage spills and permit violations. Scotti Jones

Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder, 5 May 2020, State calls for Valdosta to pay six-figure fine for spilling sewage in river,

The city of Valdosta is facing a $122,000 fine for spilling raw sewage into a creek that flows into a south Georgia river that runs downstream into Florida’s Suwannee River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

The proposed settlement with the state’s Environmental Protection Division is for Continue reading

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also PDF)

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

Hahira, GA, May 4, 2020 — May 27th is the deadline to comment on the Enforcement Order the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) finally issued on Valdosta for sewage spills. For decades, Valdosta has spilled wastewater into the Withlacoochee River. People downstream, even on the Suwannee River all the way to the Gulf, worry about fishing, swimming, or even boating and some even say their wells are contaminated by fecal bacteria from these spills. Many had hoped that Valdosta’s big spills were over in 2016 with the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant uphill out of the flood plain, plus a Force Main with two Pump Stations. Valdosta says it has spent about $80 million on water system improvements. Yet the spills continued. The Order also reveals a massive fish kill.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

“The December 2019 spill was the biggest yet, with no rain, and nothing actually broke. It was a massive failure of supervision,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Citizens and elected and appointed officials in Georgia and a dozen counties in Florida demanded something be done.”

This Enforcement Order includes the most popular request, a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, who was among the WWALS members who met with the City of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. She added, “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The Order addresses much (but not all) of what Suwannee Riverkeeper asked GA-EPD to do: http://wwals.net/?p=50979 For example, it requires the City to test water quality all the way down to the state line. One thing it does not include is any requirements for reimbursing downstream well and river testing expenses.

“It’s good to see that the EPD is FINALLY taking this issue seriously!” said Suzy Hall, WWALS Testing Committee Chair. “I can’t help but feel WWALS’ diligence in testing has been a big part of this action, and must continue regardless of any order for the City to conduct testing.”

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
http://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order will finally get the City’s attention,” said Dr. Tom Potter, WWALS Science Committee Chair and taxpayer of the City of Valdosta.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org
WWALS Watershed Coalition
850-290-2350, 229-242-0102
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

===

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

GA-EPD Enforcement Order for Valdosta wastewater with fine 2020-04-13

Update 2020-05-04: Press Release, Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order.

Much of what many people requested is in this Enforcement Order EPD-WP-8904 of the Public Notice of April 27, 2020.

[Photo 1: Site where sewage flowed out of manhole into Sugar Creek.]
Photo 1: Site where sewage flowed out of manhole into Sugar Creek.

Perhaps the most popular request, a fine, is included. As a Project In-Lieu of Penalty (PIP) stream testing is required, three times a week, down to the state line. Plus: “The Respondent shall post all the results of biological monitoring required after major spills to its website and to the Georgia EPD Adopt-A-Stream website within one business day of receipt of the results.”

All 250 sewer line creek crossings must be inspected by drone crews.

Valdosta must notify many Florida agencies, plus in Georgia Lowndes Health and Brooks EMA.

Other things are missing. WWALS is not on that notification list, for example.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

And the Order reveals some Valdosta violations the public never knew about, such as a massive fish kill in December 2019. The cost of that calculated by GA-DNR Wildlife Division seems inadequate, since it doesn’t take into account people being unwilling to fish on the Withlacoochee River, for example.

If you think there should be more or changed requirements, the Public Comment period ends May 27, 2020.

Send comments to: Continue reading

Valdosta fined for spills in GA-EPD Enforcement Order 2020-04-27

Update 2020-05-04: Press Release, Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order.

Update 2020-05-03: The entire GA-EPD Enforcement Order for Valdosta wastewater with fine 2020-04-13.

GA-EPD is fining Valdosta this time, for the first time ever. The persistent rumors from multiple sources were right about that.

Before anyone complains that the taxpayers will have to pay that fine, remember Valdosta has insurance, and so does the contractor that left the Remer Lane Pump Station offline back in December 2019, causing Valdosta’s biggest single spill since 2015.

[Spill and Remer Lane Pump Station]
Spill and Remer Lane Pump Station

And if the fine does get passed through to the taxpayers, maybe that will be incentive for the people of Valdosta to demand their city government stop spilling, by at least doing all the things this new Enforcement Order requires.

There is a comment period that opened Monday, April 27, 2020 through Wednesday, May 27, 2020. That’s right, Monday, and we only found out about it today, Friday Thursday. Thanks to GA-EPD for alerting us to this notice. The City of Valdosta doesn’t seem to have published anything about it.

If the actual Enforcement Order is online somewhere, can somebody please point me to it. Without that, I don’t know how anyone can comment coherently. I have filed an open records request with GA-EPD to get it.

[Notice]
Notice

This is apparently the Order that the U.S. EPA told us back on January 8, 2020, to expect “in weeks, not months.” Well, ten weeks or 2.5 months is better than never.

Let’s look at the “Requirements of Order“: Continue reading

Valdosta Pump Station Standard Operating Procedures 2020-04-20

This appears to be the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the Remer Lane Pump Station that was offline in early December 2019, causing a record raw sewage spill.

It does include these items:

  • Verify generator main breaker is closed.
  • Verify no alarms on generator control panel at generator.
  • Verify generator switches are set to automatic at generator.
  • Verify alarm beacons outside and inside of building are not flashing. Troubleshoot if flashing.

We got two copies, with slightly different formatting. The other copy also has:

  • Verify no SCADA alarms present in system

[1 of Remer Pump Station Inspection CheckList]
1 of Remer Pump Station Inspection CheckList

Both copies, and the two copies for the Gornto Road Pump Station, are marked at the top “Version 1: Dec 2019”. Is that early December before the big spill, or late December afterwards?

In addition we got a Work Order Detail, but Continue reading

Stream monitoring with only annual reporting privatized by Lowndes County Commission 2020-04-28

With only one dissenting vote, last night the Lowndes County Commission approved more than $45,000 for a sole-source contract for stream monitoring, with only annual reporting required. Since the contractor is private, it doesn’t have to answer open records requests. How does this help warn people when the rivers are clean or not?

There had never been any bids, even though the requirement for this monitoring from GA-EPD apparently came in back in June 2018. The Commissioners did not have the monitoring plan in front of them, nor the GA-EPD requirement, as near as I can tell.

[BUDGET IMPACT: $45,120.00]
BUDGET IMPACT: $45,120.00

Apparently somebody read a list of streams to the Commissioners, along with the monitoring required for each. But that list was not in the posted agenda.

[Suwannee Basin impaired waters, map]
Suwannee Basin impaired waters, map by GECAP.

We can guess it was maybe the “Not Supporting” or “Assessment Pending” streams in Lowndes County from the GA-EPD Listing of Waterbodies, Clean Water Act Section 303(d), for which see below. But we don’t know.

And what about the contamination often coming down Okapilco Creek into GAR031102030902 Withlacoochee River: Okapilco Creek to Stateline? No Commissioner thought to ask that. How will this contractor work with WWALS? Perhaps an indication came when I spoke with the County Engineer Mike Fletcher Monday morning: “I don’t know what WWALS is doing,” he said.

Did Lowndes County consult with any of the various organizations that are doing stream monitoring already, such as the cities of Valdosta or Quitman, Madison Health, FDEP, SRWMD, or SGRC? If so, they didn’t mention it in last night’s meeting.

It is not even clear that this was a public meeting. At 2:38 PM, less than three hours before Continue reading

Industry press: WWALS and Sierra Club oppose FERC rubberstamp of Sabal Trail compressor stations 2020-04-23

Sabal Trail is no exception to widespread pipeline opposition, notes a prominent fossil fuel industry publication, especially for the recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to authorize operation of Sabal Trail’s Phase II Albany, GA, compressor station during a virus pandemic. Neither Platts nor the AJC noted the Dunnellon, FL, compressor station was also authorized in Phase II, even though that site already leaked before station construction started.

[Platts: Sabal Trail Phase II Compressor Stations]
Platts: Sabal Trail Phase II Compressor Stations, from FERC Sabal Trail Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Maya Weber, Joe Fisher ed., S&P Global Platts, 2020-04-23, Sabal Trail gets FERC OK to start compression, over green group objections.

The article first rehearses Sabal Trail’s request for a six-month extension and about-face request for immediate operations, which FERC rubberstamped. You can read about that in more detail in the previous WWALS blog post. That post also has details of the WWALS and Sierra Club objections that the Platts article then notes.

[Site Plan]
Site Plan
PDF

Urging denial

Sierra Club and WWALS Watershed Coalition in recent weeks urged FERC to deny the request in separate filings.

“The Albany compressor station would increase air pollution—which has been linked to higher coronavirus death rates—in a predominantly African American community that has ‘one of the highest infection rates in the country,'” wrote Sierra Club attorney Elly Benson in an April 13 letter to FERC, citing news articles. “Now is not the time to needlessly increase the pollution burden on an environmental justice community that is particularly vulnerable to these threats.” She said 84% of residents within a half-mile radius of the Albany facility are African American.

[Aerial]
Aerial
PDF

But here’s a name we haven’t seen in a while.

Andrea Grover, Continue reading

On Earth Day, FERC approved Sabal Trail Albany, GA, and Dunnellon, FL, compressor stations 2020-04-22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FERC on Earth Day rubberstamped Sabal Trail pipeline compressor stations in Georgia virus hotspot and Florida location that already leaked

Hahira, Georgia, April 23, 2020 — “What better way to say they don’t care, than to do this on Earth Day?” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) broke out its rubberstamp during a virus pandemic, ignoring its own process, as well as all the comments and our motion against, to approve turning on two compressor stations, including one in Albany, Georgia, which is the Georgia city worst-affected by the virus, and another at a site near Dunnellon, Florida, which already leaked multiple times even before construction started.”

[Project Location Map]
Project Location Map

Methane from fracking is not more important to push through a Sabal Trail pipeline than the health of local people or even Sabal Trail’s own workers.

Compressor Station from FL 200
Photo: WCJB, of Sabal Trail Dunnellon Compressor Station after leak, 2017-08-11.

Quarterman added, “With the price of oil negative and “natural” gas down 40%, it’s time to ask investors if they want to go down with the fossil fuel ship of fools and time to ask politicians if they want this to be their legacy.”

Only four weeks before the FERC approval letter, FERC opened a comment period on a request by Sabal Trail for six more months to finish these same facilities, in which Sabal Trail cited the virus pandemic as a reason. Contradicting its own request, and during that two-week period, Sabal Trail asked FERC to go ahead and approve turning on both compressor stations, which must involve Sabal Trail workers working during pandemic conditions.

FERC did not even mention that WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) had moved to deny, nor any of the numerous other comments against turning on the compressor stations.

For that comment period, FERC required organizations to file again to be Intervenors, and only organizations that were already Intervenors on the process of the underlying FERC docket could do that. The only one to do that was Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS (see PDF). WWALS also filed a motion to halt Sabal Trail’s Phase II (which is mostly these two compressor stations), to deny Sabal Trail’s request to turn the compressor stations on, and to invoke penalties for already being two years late (see PDF). WWALS reasons to deny included repeated previous leaks at the Dunnellon Compressor Station of hazardous Mercaptan odorant, as well as leaks of methane at the Hildreth Compressor Station in Suwannee County, Florida, plus sinkholes at the Flint River near the Albany Compressor Station, the virus pandemic, and Sabal Trail gas going to private profit through Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export, making a mockery of local landowners having to give up easements through federal eminent domain supposedly for the public good of the United States.

WWALS also noted that the only “justification” for Sabal Trail was alleged “market need,” and there was none any more, since oil and gas prices had dropped through the floor. Since then, oil prices actually went negative for the first time in history, and natural gas prices are down more than 40% from only six months ago.

FERC did not address the concerns raised by Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) about leaks, breach of commitment, and endangering commmunities Continue reading