City Council Tim Carroll forwarded me the appended press release yesterday. I assumed it would be on Valdosta’s News page, but it is not.
Also, despite assurances back in January that WWALS would be on the list for updates about any Valdosta city spills, I did not get this PR via email directly from anyone in the Valdosta City government except Council Carroll. WWALS did get the Valdosta PR about Cleaning Up After Irma and the earlier ones that are on the city’s website. But not this one about the spill.
It’s a good thing I already called Interim Utilities Director David Frost, who told me about this lift station spill, and William “Ricky” Cornelius, Plant Superintendent, Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), who told me there were no spills at Valdosta’s two Wastewater Treatment Plants. I also heard from Valdosta Environmental Manager Scott Fowler, who confirmed the one 900-gallon lift station spill was the only one. Council Carroll also said he had checked and it was the only one.
As I told Cornelius, Frost, and Fowler, they done good. One spill of 900 gallons is way less than the previous multiple spills of thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of gallons. There is still room for improvement until there are zero spills in a tropical storm or hard rain.
The real test of this spill will be whether the Florida Department of Health will put out a river advisory. So far, it does not appear that they have, even though Cherry Creek runs into the Withlacoochee River, then the Suwannee, all the way to the Gulf. If they do, expect those seven downstream counties to complain.
Meawhile, there is also room for improvement in Valdosta’s notification of spills.
I took the pictures of the lift station yesterday as I was driving into town for an unrelated appointment. It is at the corner of the A&M parking lot. The sign next to it says:
Goodyear (Skipper Bridge) Station
4119-B Bemiss Rd.
That’s a Valdosta Utilities number.
The Valdosta PR about the lift station spill is below.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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From: Sementha Mathews <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: September 12, 2017 at 5:33:32 PM EDT
Subject: Wide-Spread Power Outages Result in Minor Spill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2017
Wide-Spread Power Outages Result in Minor Spill
While the city’s upgraded wastewater collection infrastructure held up superbly against Tropical Storm Irma, the rainfall and widespread power outages on Sept. 11 unfortunately resulted in a loss of power at most of the city’s 28 lift station. Only one of the lift stations in the system resulted in a minor wastewater spill. Approximately 900 gallons of wastewater overflowed into Cherry Creek at the 4100 Block of Bemiss Road. City maintenance staff identified the cause as a lift station power failure and quickly restored power with a portable generator to stop the spill.
Due to the completion of the Force Main, the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant and other improvements made to the city’s wastewater collection system in recent years, the impacts from the recent storm were minimized. Furthermore, the city experienced no violations or interruption of services at the Water Treatment Plant or either of the city’s wastewater treatment plants.
During Tropical Storm Irma, generators and alterative power sources were necessary to restore power at numerous wastewater lift stations, the Withlacoochee wastewater treatment plant, and the water treatment plant. While it is not a normal occurrence to employ all generators at the same time, every city generator was placed into service during the storm to sustain city services.
The Utilities Department staff conducted comprehensive inspections of the wastewater collection system and immediately began cleanup, disinfection, and monitoring of the impacted area at Cherry Creek. Warning signs have been posted at the spill location and downstream; and, although the level of potential contamination is minimal, the public is advised to avoid contact with the affected area.
All appropriate regulatory and public health agencies have been notified. Individuals with questions should contact Environmental Manager Scott Fowler at 229-259-3592 or by email at email@example.com.