A trash source success: parking lot on St. Augustine Road, Valdosta

Valdosta, GA, October 7, 2021 — Other businesses can do what Stafford did, and our creeks and rivers will be a lot cleaner! That will make Valdosta, Lowndes County, and every place downstream, more attractive to new and existing businesses, and healthier for people who live here.

After many times cleaning up trash from Sugar Creek near the Withlacoochee River, WWALS member Bobby McKenzie went upstream in Valdosta, found some sources, and one of the big ones listened. Other businesses can follow this example: put trash cans in parking lots, empty them, and keep them swept.

[Parking lot, Hightower Creek]
Parking lot, Hightower Creek

Bobby tells the story:

We identified hundreds of pounds of trash being thrown into the tree line just feet from Hightower Creek. The parking lot owner is Valdosta Mall Corners c/o Stafford Development Company (Stafford).

[Hightower Creek across St. Augustine Road]
Hightower Creek across St. Augustine Road on the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

Once we found the correct people in Stafford to talk to, the litter problem became clear and action was taken quickly to clean up the mess. Stafford’s landscaper cleaned up a full truck load of trash from the tree line and nearby creek. Going even further Stafford amended their grounds keeping contract and placed the site on a recurring scheduled clean up. Now the citizens of Valdosta and Lowndes County need to do their part. We know that people order from fast food locations on St. Augustine Rd and we know that they park near the tree line near Enterprise car rental to eat and then toss their trash into the tree line. Please STOP!

Follow up in the area shows that Stafford is being true to their commitment of preventing litter from entering our waterways. More businesses should follow Stafford’s example to keep litter from entering the stormwater system and our water ways.

[Valdosta Mall Corners c/o Stafford Development Corp.]
Valdosta Mall Corners c/o Stafford Development Corp.

One way all Valdosta business can help is to comply with the City of Valdosta’s own litter ordinance trash receptacle requirements. All areas that have 25 or more parking spots are required to have trash receptacles “strategically” places in their parking lots to discourage littering. More than 90% establishments in Valdosta do not comply with this City Ordinance.

[Hightower Creek under St. Augustine Road]
Hightower Creek under St. Augustine Road

The most relevant Valdosta Ordinance is Chapter 82: SOLID WASTE, Sec. 82-1. -Littering.(b)(9):

Commercial sites with on-site parking shall, at a minimum, have its parking area cleaned or swept as needed to prevent an accumulation of litter and to maintain a neat and orderly appearance. Furthermore, said sites shall provide and maintain litter receptacles that are strategically placed throughout the parking lot for individuals using same to properly deposit litter and other refuse. The number of receptacles shall be determined as follows:

One receptacle for establishments with one to 25 parking spaces;

Two receptacles for establishments with 26 to 50 parking spaces;

One additional receptacle for each additional 100 parking spaces at any location.

The ordinance has penalties attached, but nobody wants that. Two Valdosta city departments did send letters to Stafford, but those never got to penalties. It was Bobby’s persuasion that convinced Stafford to do something.

We are also working with the City of Valdosta on a grant proposal for a trash trap downstream in Sugar Creek, and meanwhile Valdosta Stormwater has started cleaning up the biggest mess in that creek.

But we all need to stop the trash problem at its sources.

Trash is not just unsightly, it’s a health hazard, washing downstream into Florida, and along the creeks in Valdosta. As Valdosta’s 2010 Stormwater Master Plan (SWMP) says, “Streams are a natural attractor for children and play structures occur along the stream edge. The pollution in this stream poses a serious risk of disease and injury and children should be strongly discouraged from playing in the stream until the trash and sewage are eliminated.”

Thanks to Stafford for setting an example!

Please, all businesses, put trash cans in your parking lots, empty them, and keep the parking lots swept. And everybody else, please put your trash in the trash cans.

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity. WWALS advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. Since December 2016, John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper
WWALS Watershed Coalition
850-290-2350, 229-242-0102