Tag Archives: Valdosta Daily Times

Videos: Valdosta and Florida Counties about sewage 2019-07-10

Congenial yet sometimes testy, the Florida counties meeting Valdosta about sewage again last night.

The Valdosta catch basin many Floridians thought would be finished by now? Probably by December.

That report the Utilities Manager last time said explained why 8 or 10 million gallons was big enough for a catch basin? No, it doesn’t explain that. Fortunately, Georgia EPD wants to know how many gallons will be needed for how much rain, and apparently won’t issue a permit for the catch basin until there are answers, so maybe we’ll finally find out.

GA-EPD also wanted to know what if the catch basin fills up? Valdosta’s answer: tanker trucks to ship the sewage from the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Or the other direction, if needed. That sounds like a fine idea. Although it doesn’t address the question of what if the heavy rains fall directly on Valdosta and both WTPs fill up.

Meanwhile, the catch basin is just one of a combination of fixes, mostly intended to alleviate infiltration of stormwater into the sewer system, and about 25% of those are done, says Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber.

Will all these projects be finished this year? No.

Floridians offer to get national elected officials to help.

Floridians also emphasized Ecotourism, and asked me to talk about the 350 people who just came through on Paddle Georgia (#PaddleGA2019), the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Florida to Georgia and back, and the proposed River Camp at the Little River Confluence west of Valdosta, like the ones on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Valdosta Mayor John Gayle wrote down the date of the WWALS Boomerang (October 26th), and afterwards both Hamilton and Madison Counties promised to help.

Tom Mirti of SRWMD described Florida water quality testing, but didn’t mention that FDEP’s monthly testing isn’t made public until four months later. He did mention that FDEP is now testing for sucralose. Merrillee Malwwitz-Jipson, who requested that, was sitting right there. Thanks to her and Jim Tatum for coming from Florida to this meeting.

Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber said Valdosta was still testing at the state line, which caused me to ask why I didn’t get any results for those locations this year in response to open records requests, then? Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse said that was because they haven’t actually tested at the state line this year. He also complained that he had staff working 100 hours a week. Which makes me wonder whether the city of Valdosta is really giving him what he needs, or whether he hasn’t asked for everything he needs.

Anyway, people were rightly impressed with how much Valdosta has done and with their current plans. However, there is still room for improvement.

Below are Continue reading

Agenda: Florida Counties meet Valdosta about sewage 2019-07-10

Here’s the agenda for tonight’s Special Called Meeting of the Valdosta City Council, with business of Valdosta Utilities presenting to the dozen Florida counties. You may wonder why you haven’t seen this City Council meeting on Valdosta’s website or in the Valdosta Daily Times. Well, Georgia Open Meetings law only requires one notice on the front of the venue and a notice to the newspaper of record 24 hours in advance.

When: 6PM, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Where: General Purpose Room,
Valdosta City Hall Annex,
300 North Lee Street, Valdosta, GA 31601

Event: facebook

[071019-Special-Called-Meeting-Agenda-0001]
071019-Special-Called-Meeting-Agenda-0001
PDF

Maybe Valdosta should consider that elected official embarassment does not outweigh informing the public.

Thanks to Valdosta City Clerk Teresa Bolden for the agenda. See also Continue reading

At the GA-FL Line 2019-06-17

Site of an old town, a governor’s house, an old bridge at the state line, and, last but certainly not least, Mozell Spells! Pictures of sites on Day 3 (today) of Paddle Georgia, from Donald O. Davis, Director, Lowndes County Historical Society.

[Map of Olympia, GA]
Map of Olympia, GA

You’ll know you’re close when you hear the Olympia Bend Firing Range. Don Davis wrote about Olympia, Ga: Continue reading

Testing for firefighting chemicals in wells and waterways 2019-01-18

Those firefighting chemicals that leaked from Moody Air Force Base are on the front page of the Valdosta Daily Times today:

Moody recommends private well owners contact their county representatives for information on testing personal wells.

Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer, said this is an opportunity for county residents such as Tann to have their water tested. Not only for PFAS but for any other contaminants that might be there.

Indeed, and Lowndes County operates the Moody AFB wastewater treatment plant that spilled into Beatty Branch and Cat Creek. So it’s an opportunity for Lowndes County to help organize testing for these per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), because testing for them isn’t nearly as simple or inexpensive as testing for other contaminants.

Reporter and photographer at Beatty Branch, 2019-01-07, VDT
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, nearby resident Debra Tann, VDT reporter Thomas Lynn and photographer Derrek Vaughn, at Beatty Branch, January 7, 2019. Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS.

Debra Tann and I were back at Beatty Branch on January 7, 2019, this time with the VDT, about the firefighting chemical issue that was in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the first week of January. This time it was for local reporters. Moody neighbor wants water tested, Continue reading

Watershed Coalition to hold film festival –VDT 2018-05-29

Today in the newspaper of record for the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin, Amanda M. Usher, Valdosta Daily Times, May 29, 2018, Watershed Coalition to hold film festival

VALDOSTA — The WWALS Watershed Coalition will host the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, 7 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at the Mathis City Auditorium.

The festival will feature 13 films from national filmmakers, one of which will focus on coral reef restoration and another on the Chattooga River.

Gretchen Quarterman, executive director, said one of the purposes of the festival is to observe the 50th anniversary of rivers reaching the designation status by Congress in 1968.

“We’re trying to raise awareness of the rivers in the Suwannee Basin, which is our area, so that people will appreciate them more,” Quarterman said….

Gretchen, Before

There will be Continue reading

Hahira is sixth resolution supporting GA HR 158, now in statehouse 2018-02-01

HR 158 may be scheduled for a vote in the Georgia House as soon as tomorrow. Help dedicate state fees to their intended purposes: please contact your Georgia House Representative or Georgia State Senator (follow the links for contact information) and ask them to pass HR 158. If you don’t know who your Georgia Representative or Senator are, see Georgia My Voter Page.

Hahira is the most recent of six local governments representing the majority of the population in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia, in five Georgia House districts and two Senate districts, that have passed a resolution supporting Georgia HR 158 against state fee diversions, with five stories and an editorial in the biggest circulation newspaper in the Basin. More local resolutions passed elsewhere in the state, but that ain’t bad for the Suwannee River Basin.

Camera, City Council

  1. 2018-01-08 Lanier County, House District 176 (Jason Shaw), Senate District 8 (Ellis Black) Continue reading

Pinocchio or Vulcan? Still claims Sabal Trail is safe 2017-09-14

Is Ms. Grover is a Vulcan now?

Asked why a pipeline dispatcher apparently told the fire department that “this was a new system and they are still learning,” Grover responds that “it would be illogical to speculate as to what the fire department has quoted as part of a conversation.”

Or are those just Pinocchio donkey ears? That would be more logical.

Who do you believe? A local county fire department, or someone paid by a pipeline company to put the best face on any event? Especially when she didn’t actually deny anything Marion County Fire Rescue reported?

Amy Martyn, ConsumerAffairs, 14 September 2017, Company says its natural gas pipeline ‘operated safely’ through Hurricane Irma; However, activists say the Sabal Trail Pipeline is dangerous and needs to be removed,

The Sabal Trail Pipeline, a new natural gas pipeline that critics have charged is uncomfortably close to Florida’s main aquifer, “operated safely throughout Hurricane Irma,” a spokesperson with the pipeline operator tells ConsumerAffairs.

“We were and continue to be able to meet any customer needs,” says an email from Andrea Grover of Enbridge Energy, the natural gas company behind the Sabal Trail Pipeline. “Operations was not affected by the hurricane impacts.”

Andrea Grover’s linkedin page lists her as “Director, Stakeholder Outreach at Enbridge (Oil & Gas)”. For four years we were told the pipeline’s “stakeholders” were landowners along the way.

You know, like Brooks County, Georgia, farmer Randy Dowdy, whose world-record-holding soybean fields Sabal Trail destroyed, causing generational damage that Sabal Trail has not addressed.

Or Robin Koon, whose family graveyard Sabal Trail disturbed, which is part of why he helped Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper get standing for their recent historic victory over FERC that could still shut down Sabal Trail and already was cited in a denial of a different pipeline.

Curious how now that Sabal Trail has gotten its pipe in the ground, Ms. Grover no longer mentions “stakeholders,” just “customer needs.” Which is all Sabal Trail has been about all along: profit for a few utilities and pipeline companies, and for the frackers in the Marcellus Shale and Oklahoma and elsewhere to sell their greenhouse-gas-producing product through a 500-mile IED. Even FPL has admitted Florida needs no new electricity until 2024 at the earliest, and a stock analyst has revealed that all Sabal Trail is doing is decreasing gas shipped into Florida through FGT and Gulfstream by the same amount Sabal Trail is shipping. Why did local landowners have to give up easements for nothing but profit for utiltiies, frackers, and Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas, now owned by Enbridge of Calgary, Alberta, Canada?

But is Sabal Trail even serving those customers well? Cody Suggs reported yesterday from the Hildreth Compressor Station site near O’Brien, in Suwannee County, Florida, that power is still off there and it took two days for trees to be cleared off the access road.


Photo: Cody Suggs at Sabal Trail Hildreth Compressor Station Site 2017-09-14.

Natural gas began flowing through the Sabal Trail Pipeline in June 2017. People like John Quarterman, a Georgia landowner and activist with WWALS Watershed Coalition, a group that aims to protect watersheds in Georgia and Florida, say that federal regulators are typically asleep at the wheel for these projects.

“We have this 500-mile improvised explosive device, under our rivers, next to our schools and next to people’s houses and nobody is handling pipeline safety,” he tells ConsumerAffairs.

Well, I remember three years ago when Ms. Grover said she found it “hard to believe” that Sabal Trail was threatening landowners with eminent domain until the Valdosta Daily Times (VDT) published one of the actual letters.

Ms. Grover’s response? She used the VDT to threaten landowners with eminent domain.

That was shortly after Sabal Trail attempted to claim customers in Georgia to justify the Georgia eminent domain they were threatening, but didn’t bother to contact the local governments they claimed needed the gas.

Four years ago, Ms. Grover and Brian Fahrenthold, “the state and local government affairs director for Houston-based Spectra Energy”, told me they were “not familiar with” Spectra’s well-known public record of safety violations. She did claim everybody in Pennsylvania was happy after the infamous Steckman Ridge Compressor Station leak, for which she was called in to do spin control, which led to a rebuttal from Pennsylvania, beginning:

“I speak for more than a dozen families who live next to or near the problematic compressor facility; and your statement is incorrect and misleading.”

Neither Ms. Grover nor Spectra Energy ever responded to that rebuttal, to my knowledge.

Please let me be clear: this is not about Ms. Grover personally. As I told her the first time I met her, she is the best I have ever seen at doing her job. Which is to market her company.

Too bad her company is a pipeline company that gouged under our rivers, causing a frac-out and sinkholes, destroyed farmlands, goes right past schools and homes, and has already leaked hazardous Mercaptan at its Dunnellon, Florida, Compressor Station site.

That Steckman Ridge Compressor Station blowout? They called in Ms. Grover because another “stakeholder outreach” Spectra Energy rep. had to backtrack. And for that 2009 incident, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania fined Spectra in 2010.

Back to the ConsumerAffairs story:

Sinkholes and hurricanes

Florida’s landscape is characterized by karst terrain, or land made of porous limestone, caverns, and water dissolving into the bedrock, all of which are a recipe for sinkholes. Man-made infrastructure can increase the chance of a sinkhole forming, and so can intense rain.

“Man-induced sinkholes typically involve collapse of old mine workings, drainage infrastructure or other underground workings,” explained meteorologist Jim Andrews in one recent report. “Naturally, such can fail over time, and rainfall can be a major factor.”

In fact, at least four homes have been evacuated in central Florida this week after sinkholes formed in the wake of Hurricane Irma, according to reporters on the scene. Still, Enbridge Energy says that their pipeline can handle sinkhole-prone terrain.

Well, we’ve already come pretty close to finding out, with a sinkhole a half mile away Monday from Sabal Trail’s sister Florida Southeast Connection (FSC).

Sinkhole, FPL pipeline, FLiNG, FSC
Sinkhole, FPL pipeline, FLiNG, FSC; map by John S. Quarterman for WWALS.

Back to the ConsumerAffairs story:

“While opposition has raised the issue of the pipeline being constructed in karst terrain, this was thoroughly examined by the appropriate federal and state agencies,” responds Enbridge representative Andrea Grover by email. “They concluded it was unlikely that Sabal Trail would impact springs or the Floridan Aquifer in the karst regions. Sabal Trail is well equipped to safely construct and operate the pipeline in karst areas.”

Violations Sabal Trail and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) told us would not happen, under oath in WWALS vs. Sabal Trail & FDEP (October 2015), have already been happening.


Photo of John S. Quarterman at Sabal Trail frac-out into the Withlacoochee River between Quitman and Valdosta, Georgia: Bruce Ritchie, Politico, 17 November 2016.

But Quarterman says he does not trust the company to voluntarily report any issues that may arise. Activists with his group who live along the pipeline route have been tracking the project themselves, both before and after Hurricane Irma, to make sure no leaks, sinkholes underneath the pipeline, or any other issues have occurred.

Why, yes, I do have some sceptism about that.

As always, there’s more in the story.

No more pipelines. Here are some things you can do to help with that.

Let the sun rise on Florida, Georgia, Alabama, the southeast, and the rest of the country and the world.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Sabal Trail says hazaradous Mercaptan leaks are no danger to the public 2017-08-17

OSHA says the Mercaptan that was smelled miles from the leak “can cause problems for the respiratory system and the central nervous system” but Sabal Trail’s Andrea Grover says “there is no danger to the public”. Which do you believe?

Pinocchio Hint: this is the same Andrea Grover about which the newspaper of record in Valdosta, Georgia wrote four years ago:

Letters submitted to the Valdosta Daily Times and to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could contradict a recent statement by Sabal Trail’s Andrea Grover.

Looks like we have Pinocchio with her nose growing doing PR for the Three Stooges.

Jessica Lipscomb, Miami New Times, 17 August 2017, Stinky Leaks From Florida’s Controversial Sabal Trail Pipeline Scares Residents, Continue reading

VDT corrects Valdosta drinking water story 2017-05-17

Congratulations City of Valdosta! You got the VDT to issue a correction for that one sentence a week ago, even though the VDT blamed it on “a source cited in the article”, and came up with yet another number of violations that doesn’t match what NRDC says nor what Valdosta says, with still no specific comparisons to other local governments. So it’s a correction that doesn’t resolve anything. And you’re not helping your credibility problem, Valdosta, by quibbling over a single digit while neglecting to mention an entire year in which you did have drinking water violations that match what’s in NRDC’s map.

Correction, red faced non-admission
Valdosta Daily Times, page 3A, 17 May 2017

CORRECTION

An article headlined “Report. Georgia 5th in drinking water violations,” published 1n the May 10 edition of The Valdosta Daily Times contained an error that originated from a source cited in the article.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division said in an email, “Valdosta had six violations: two total coliform violations (one monitoring violation and one MCL exceedance) and four haloacetic acid violations (four consecutive quarters of a running annual average MCL exceedance from one sample location). These violations have all been resolved in an old database that preceded our current database. This actual violation was resolved in 1998.”

This correction is on page 3A, below the Crime Report. It does have a big red CORRECTION header, but Continue reading

SDWA Health Violations: Valdosta, Lowndes County, and beyond 2017-05-02

The VDT and the City of Valdosta are feuding again about water quality, this time about drinking water (not sewage). Lowndes County They’re both wrong and both right, and neither named any of the other poor local water sources. The VDT didn’t make this story easy to follow by omitting the key piece from its first online story and not quoting its source, and the city didn’t acknowledge some main points the VDT made.

Kimberly Cannon, Valdosta Daily Times, 10 May 2017, City celebrates water: Mayor refutes water quality report, Continue reading