Valdosta rains sewage down Sugar Creek into Withlacoochee River 2015-08-28

Valdosta can’t blame this one on rain upstream: it fell directly on Valdosta, and once again the same Meadowbrook Drive neighborhood that’s been getting doused in sewage since 2009 saw it surging out of a manhole, after three other streets got it. Valdosta says it reported all this to GA-EPD, but good luck finding it (or anything else) on EPD’s website. Once again Valdosta on its own website didn’t even say which river Sugar Creek dumps into, US 41 (North Valdosta Road), Withlacoochee River but Florida figured it out, and ain’t happy. The Florida Department of Health advisory is findable, and news media and SRWMD picked that up. Maybe Valdosta’s ongoing force main project will fix these overflows: bids were requested earlier that same month for more parts of that project. Maybe Valdosta could try to explain itself better in its own press releases?

Valdosta News, 29 August 2015, Update: Overflows Stopped,

UPDATE: All four overflows have stopped. Utilities Department staff cleaned the spill area of debris and have treated the areas with disinfection and odor control.

On August 28-29, 2015, the Valdosta area experienced thunderstorms that produced over 7.5 inches of rain. As a result, inflow and infiltration entering the sanitary sewer system caused a surcharge of the system and resulted in four sanitary sewer overflows.

Yep, can’t blame this one on Tifton; there was no Little River rise at Upper Ty Ty Road, and not much at Adel:

Little River at Upper Ty-Ty Road, Tifton Little River at Adel

  • A manhole in the 600 block of Scott Drive is discharging approximately 100 gallons per minute of combined stormwater and wastewater into Sugar Creek.
  • A manhole at the end of Remer Lane is discharging approximately 250 gallons per minute of combined stormwater and wastewater into Sugar Creek.
  • A manhole in the 1400 block of Gornto Road is discharging approximately 200 gallons per minute of combined stormwater and wastewater into Sugar Creek.

These three overflows had stopped by midnight August 28 and began discharging again when the area received additional rains on August 29.

We do see those additional rains on August 29th at GA 122 on the Little River near Hahira and on the Withlacoochee River at Skipper Bridge, both upstream, but obviously they don’t account for the August 28th overflows.

Little River at GA 122, Hahira Skipper Bridge, Withlacoochee River

  • An additional manhole in the 2400 block of Meadowbrook began overflowing on August 29 and is discharging approximately 200 gallons per minute of combined stormwater and wastewater into Sugar Creek.

Reconsidering that Valdosta buyout offer yet, Meadowbrook residents?

And we do see the August 28th and 29th rains raising the Withlacoochee River at US 41 (North Valdosta Road) and US 84.

US 41 (North Valdosta Road), Withlacoochee River US 84, Withlacoochee River

Withlacoochee River at US 84 Friday August 28th 2015 At US 84, the water level jumped from about 1.8 feet during the WWALS Field Trip to the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline crossing Friday to 4.5 feet Saturday and 5 feet overnight into Sunday August 30th.

Warning signs have been placed at and downstream of the spill locations to warn the general public. The City has made the proper notification to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources and has initiated sampling of the effected stream.

Due to the possibility of bacterial contamination from combined stormwater and wastewater, the public is advised to avoid contact with Sugar Creek in these areas for the next seven days.

Valdosta’s long-term notoriety for this sort of event continued over in Albany: Albany Herald, 30 August 2015, Valdosta sewer system overflows,

Residents of Valdosta are being warned to avoid contract with Sugar Creek for a week after heavy rains caused the city’s sewer system to overflow.

In Florida, Tallahassee smelled Valdosta. Georgiaree Godfrey, WTXL, 29 August 2015, Valdosta Sees Sanitary Sewage Overflows After Heavy Rains,

Heavy rains in Lowndes County caused sanitary sewer overflows over the weekend.

But the real alarm started downstream, once the Florida Department of Health figured out what Valdosta didn’t say: the euphemestically-named Sugar Creek runs into the Withlacoochee River, which runs downstream into Florida. Bill Gibson, Florida Health Madison County, 31 August 2015, Sewage Spill in Valdosta,


Madison, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health in Hamilton and Madison counties today issued a joint health advisory to residents and visitors next to the Withlacoochee River in north Florida. The City of Valdosta, Georgia has reported a spill, made up of a combination of storm water and untreated sewage that has overflowed into Sugar Creek, which flows into the Withlacoochee River.

And indeed the USGS gages show the storm waters appearing Sunday August 30th at Pinetta and Madison.

Pinetta, Withlacoochee River Madison, Withlacoochee River

Until further information is known regarding possible contamination of the river, people in the area are urged to take precautions when in contact with the Withlacoochee River.

Water contaminated with wastewater overflow presents several health hazards to humans and may contain untreated human sewage with microbes that could cause gastro-intestinal and other diseases.

Anyone who comes into contact with the river water should wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking. Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to disease so every precaution should be taken if in contact with the river water….

The Florida Health advisory was picked up by Florida news media.

WCTV, 31 August 2015, Possible Wastewater Contamination in Hamilton, Madison Co..

Joyce Marie Taylor, Jasper News, 31 August 2015, Health officials in Hamilton and Madison counties advise of possible wastewater contamination.

Needless to say, Floridians commenting on those news sites and on social media are not happy; for example this one by Robert Emory Williams on the Jasper News story:

Why are they allowed to keep doing this…who is responsible.. What is the real story…

Since neither Valdosta nor Florida Health said anything about the $300 million Valdosta is spending to fix the problem, most of the readers of this news don’t know that.

Want to see some real rants? Look at the comments on Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD)’s faceboook post,

Florida Dept of Health issued a public health advisory for the Withlacoochee River in Madison and Hamilton counties. The City of Valdosta, GA reported spill of untreated wastewater into Sugar Creek that flows into the Withlacoochee River.

If you can find Valdosta’s advisory on GA-EPD’s website, let me know where. And will GA-EPD head Judson Turner have to go explain all this to SRWMD again? If he does, maybe he can explain why nothing is findable on his website.

Meanwhile, Valdosta is busily working on fixing the problem, witness for example Valdosta News, 18 August 2015, Lift Station Rahab (Phase 3) Bid Advertisement.

WWALS already spent quite a bit of effort helping Valdosta educate people northwards and southwards of what the city is doing to fix all this; see videos and slides from the meeting WWALS helped organized in March.

Would it be too much to ask for Valdosta to explain itself in its own press releases?


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  1. Pingback: Valdosta wastewater fixes schedule update | WWALS Watershed Coalition

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