Update 2021-07-14: Valdosta Manhole Rehabilitation lists 2021-07-13.
“Doesn’t look good,” WWALS member Scotti Jay summed up the situation at the Wainwright Drive Onemile Branch manhole that spilled yet again in Tropical Storm Elsa. “No lime was put out.”
This is a manhole at 1212 Wainwright Drive, where Valdosta, Georgia, spilled 37,500 gallons of raw sewage on July 7, 2021, during Tropical Storm Elsa. That’s the same place Valdosta has spilled numerous times before, listing it as 1208 Wainwright Drive, or “1200 block”, including 51,800 gallons 2018-12-14, 166,275 gallons 2018-12-03, 9,800 gallons 2017-01-22, and 90,500 gallons 2016-02-04. That’s a total of 355,875 gallons spilled at that one location.
Is a third of a million gallons of raw sewage not enough for Valdosta to pay attention and fix that location? Will it require a million gallons?
Back on November 11, 2017, Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse joined WWALS on a cleanup of Onemile Branch, including at the bridge in these pictures. He said they were trying to get the number of sewer spills down to zero.
Yet a year later at a Valdosta City Council meeting and then at a SRWMD Board meeting, Director Muse neglected to mention the 218,075 gallons spilled at that location alone in December 2018. In both cases I had to stand up and correct him in public.
SRWMD Board member Virginia Sanchez noted, “You don’t want to swim in a little sewage versus a lot of sewage either. Both of them are bad. A spill is bad.”
When I asked him another year later during one of the Florida dozen-county Valdosta sewage Task Force meetings with the Valdosta City Council when Wainwright Drive would be fixed, Darryl Muse did not recall that location.
Still years more later, Scotti Jay last week observed, “You would be amazed at all the incompetent work being done around the Wainwright location. With no effort whatsoever towards improving the faulty, damaged manhole. Absolutely nothing.”Scotti Jay wrote, “it’s just zip tied. But some locations have permanent signs.”
Valdosta says it is trying to do something about the stigma of its chronic sewage spills. Well, the stigma is back with these July spills, and continuing to ignore Wainwright Drive is doing nothing to alleviate that stigma.
Darryl Muse has departed. Perhaps the next Valdosta Utilities Director will do something about that Wainwright Drive manhole.
I have sent the City of Valdosta an open records request for their current list of manholes to be rehabilitated, which they are required to have by the 2020 GA-EPD Consent Order.Scotti Jay.
The land clearing north of Onemile Branch downstream of the Wainwright Drive bridge is on private property. It seems quite likely that construction debris washed off that site into Onemile Branch, which runs into Sugar Creek, then the Withlacoochee River, alongside Madison County, and on to the Suwannee River and the Gulf. That private property, ironically, is owned by someone from Madison, Florida. I wonder if that owner knows they may be polluting their own county of residence? And I wonder if the City of Valdosta has done any enforcement of its own construction codes.
It’s great that Valdosta has finished the catch basin at the entrance to its Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Given that it was half full after Elsa, the catch basin probably prevented another WWTP spill.
But the catch basin does nothing to stop manhole spills like this one at Wainwright Drive on Onemile Branch. It’s about time for Valdosta to stop that one.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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