Georgia sewage spills from January 2015 through 2018-09-18

Here is every spill reported by all the large wastewater permits in the state of Georgia since the beginning of 2015 through this Tuesday, September 18, 2018. It includes spills in the Suwannee River Basin you probably didn’t know about.

If people downstream want to do something about wastewater coming from Georgia, this data suggests two things: insist Georgia publish spill reports online the same day like Florida and Alabama already do. And help fund WWALS water quality testing so we can find out what’s going on and when.

2015-2018, Valdosta
Just spills with a Valdosta address from 2015 on.

WWALS Science Committee Chair Tom Potter extracted and sorted every spill with an address in Valdosta since the beginning of 2015: Spill-Detail-sorted_Valdosta_2015–2018-09-19. See also web version of this data.

I’ve been asking the City of Valdosta for a list of their spills and locations since at least 2015, and I’ve been collecting reports ad hoc since before then. Finally, we have this list, but not from Valdosta. We had to go to the state of Georgia to get it.

Selecting for a Valdosta address included the two Lowndes County spills recently posted here, 2017-09-23 and 2018-07-06.

The good news: the number of spills and the amount spilled has definitely gone down. The worst recent year for Valdosta was 2016. Since January 2017, there have been no more million-gallon spills.

The bad news: some spills were never announced to the public. The most obvious is that July 6, 2018 Lowndes County spill, which I only found out about through following up rumors.

2017-2018, Valdosta
Valdosta spills, 2017-2018

Plus Valdosta had two spills in March 2018 for which I can find no public notice, and no press release on Valdosta’s website. Sure, they were small, too small for GA-EPD to require a public notice. But they were both bigger (1500 and 2625 gallons) than the Valdosta’s 900 gallon Cherry Creek lift station spill of September 11, 2017 that was announced. Plus the 1500 gallon one was in the same “4100 Block of Bemiss Road” as that September 2017 spill.

Goodyear (Skipper Bridge) Station
Valdosta lift station on Cherry Creek at 4119-B Bemiss Road that spilled September 11, 2017 and apparently again March 22, 2018.

People downstream are livid that they hear there were spills that they didn’t know about. And they are right that there were such spills.

Cherry Creek, Withlacoochee River, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico
Downstream to the Gulf from Cherry Creek, Valdosta, GA.

What I got from GA-EPD is more than 4,000 spills for that period (2015-01-01 to 2018-09-18) that were reported to GA-EPD’s Atlanta office: GA-EPD-Spill-Detail-Atlanta-2015–2018-09-18. See also web version of this data.

They do not include every spill in Georgia, since some permitted facilities report to GA-EPD’s Albany office. However, all the big permits that people downstream are most concerned about report to Atlanta, including Valdosta, Lowndes County, Hahira, Quitman, Adel, and Tifton.

Many thanks to the numerous people in the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) who made this information available. WWALS will pull out more pieces of this data and publish it later in we hope more accessible ways, but first we just want to get it out to the public.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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