Two Valdosta sewer spills in Withlacoochee River watershed

What crosses Lee Street and Gornton Road heading to the Withlacoochee River? Aerial Map: One Mile Branch HUCs One Mile Branch and Sugar Creek, but you wouldn’t know that from Valdosta’s press releases.

Valdosta PR 27 October 2015, Grease Blockage Causes Small Sanitary Sewer Spill in City,

At approximately 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2015, the City of Valdosta Utilities Department responded to a grease blockage that caused a sanitary sewer spill at the 1100 block of N. Lee Street.

City staff removed the grease blockage from the sewer main that caused approximately 600 gallons to spill into a storm drain that leads to an adjacent retention pond, which enters One Mile Branch. The stormwater drain and its discharge point into the retention pond were cleaned and disinfected.

Even though the level of potential contamination to the retention pond is minimal, the public is advised to avoid contact with the water in the retention pond adjacent to the 1100 block of N Lee Street for the next seven days. Warning signs have been posted at the retention pond.

That PR continues with information about why not to dump Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) into sewer. Which is great, but the PR says nothing about where One Mile Branch goes. It doesn’t mention Vallotton Park, Drexel Park, or VSU, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Sugar Creek, or the Withlacoochee River, much less the Suwannee River downstream.

Aerial Map: One Mile Branch HUCs

Speaking of Sugar Creek: Valdosta PR, 4 November 2015, City Reports Sewer Spill on Gornto Road,

During a routine rainfall inspection on Nov. 3, 2015, at approximately 6 p.m., the Utilities Department staff identified a sanitary sewer spill at the 1400 block of Gornto Road that was caused by the nearly 4 inches of rain received in our area within a 24-hour period. As a result of the heavy rain, infiltration and inflow entering the sanitary sewer system caused an estimated 27,000 gallons of combined stormwater and sewer to enter Sugar Creek at this location.

Notice this wasn’t caused by rainfall upstream on the Withlacoochee River backing up into Sugar Creek: it was caused by rainfall directly on Valdosta and upstream on its creeks, such as One Mile Creek.

Warning signs have been posted at the spill location, as well as downstream, to advise the public to avoid any contact with Sugar Creek in this area for the next seven days. City staff recovered wastewater, disinfected the area, and will continue to monitor and test the waters affected by this spill. The Environmental Protection Division and other public health agencies have also been notified.

How exactly do you recover all the wastewater that spilled in an area? Sure, the PR doesn’t say “all”, but it does say “recovered” unqualified.

Also what about Florida agencies downstream? Were they notified?

Maybe the Withlacoochee River and the Suwannee River really weren’t affected. The PR could say so, maybe with measurements to back that up.

In addition to the new Wastewater Treatment Plant and Force Main Projects, which are scheduled to be completed by early 2016, the city has continued its intense strategy that is repairing the existing infrastructure to eliminate sewer issues from occurring in the future.

For more information, contact Environmental Manager Scott Fowler at (229) 259-3592 or visit

Since the PR didn’t provide a link, here’s the Valdosta Sanitary Sewer System Improvements web page. Which still lists December 2018 for most of the projects on it, despite work going faster than that, as reported in September. Also still no answers to the questions about spills into the Alapaha River Watershed, nothing about which contaminants are coming from which industries into the Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and sometimes breaking pipes on the way, and nothing about independent measurements.

WWALS likes to speak up for the good things Valdosta is doing, and a bit more responsiveness on these remaining issues would be good.

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