Sugar Creek Trash 2022-01-15

Trash lined both sides of Sugar Creek all the way to the Withlacoochee River Saturday.

Trash jams behind their houses probably don’t make people very happy in Wood Valley subdivision half a mile down the river.

At the proposed site of Troupville River Camp and Troupville River Park, trashjams at the Little River Confluence make those projects less viable, despite promotion by One Valdosta-Lowndes, VLPRA, Valdosta, Lowndes County, and WWALS.

Floridians do not thank Valdosta for this trash gift, which trash washes downstream into Florida and the Suwannee River, onwards to the Gulf.

[Trash down Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River]
Trash down Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River

This problem has been known to the City of Valdosta since at least 2010, when it finished its Stormwater Master Plan (SWMP). The SWMP describes and includes a photograph of the notorious Sugar Creek trashjam near the bottom of the Salty Snapper property.

[Figure 3.3.14. Garbage Rafts Upstream of Log Jams]
Figure 3.3.14. Garbage Rafts Upstream of Log Jams

The SWMP says about Sugar Creek in a 2010 Water Quality section:

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.

That’s a public health problem.

The next paragraph says:

The leaking manholes and sewer pipes should be repaired immediately and protected from future damage. The garbage should be removed from the creek and an education and enforcement program to prevent further pollution should be implemented.

Does “immediately” mean more than a decade later? And does letting the trash wash downstream qualify as prevention?

After many WWALS Sugar Creek cleanups, mostly led by Bobby McKenzie, including some involving both Lowndes County and Valdosta, Valdosta Stormwater started cleaning up the notorious Sugar Creek logjam every two weeks if it needed it.

However, on November 12, 2021, Valdosta Stormwater removed the logjam. That did not make the trash evaporate: it just washes downstream.

[Green ball about 100 feet downstream of old Sugar Creek trashjam]
Green ball about 100 feet downstream of old Sugar Creek trashjam

Some of the trash fetches up on other logs near the Sugar Creek Confluence.

[Cooler against log about 50 feet from Sugar Creek Confluence]
Cooler against log about 50 feet from Sugar Creek Confluence

But some goes right on by, and high water will wash it downstream anyway.

[Garbage raft behind Wood Valley]
Garbage raft behind Wood Valley

Lest you wonder if this trash is really coming from Sugar Creek, it has all the old hits: Zacodoo’s, Circle K, Flash Foods, Pop Ice, etc.

[Zacadoo's cup, yet another garbage raft behind Wood Valley]
Zacadoo’s cup, yet another garbage raft behind Wood Valley


No shortage of plastic water bottles, either.


Here’s some more. Styrofoam everywhere. Animals eat it and can’t digest it.

[Sugar Creek Trash half a mile down Withlacoochee River behind Wood Valley]
Sugar Creek Trash half a mile down Withlacoochee River behind Wood Valley

Not very attractive, trash to paddle through to reach Troupville River Camp.

[Log trash jam about 100 feet from Little River Confluence, at site of proposed Troupville River Camp]
Log trash jam about 100 feet from Little River Confluence, at site of proposed Troupville River Camp

Trash Traps

At the end of November, WWALS sent a grant proposal to fund trash traps to Coca-Cola, with the City of Valdosta and Macedonia Community Foundation as collaborators. Coke funded trash traps in Atlanta, so why not in Valdosta? We are waiting to hear back.

A trash trap near where the old trashjam used to be would at least stop most of it from floating down the river.

We are aware Valdosta Stormwater is concerned about funds for ongoing maintenance after any such grant. So it’s fortunate that multiple Valdosta City Council members tell us they can think of ways to produce such funding.

I can think of one: business owners could pro-actively fund trash traps. That would make great PR for them!

Parking Lots

Upstream, all the businesses selling that throw-away trash need to do what Stafford did on St. Augustine Road. Stafford changed its contract with its upkeep contractor to keep the trash out of Hightower Creek, which runs into Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek drains more than 80% of Valdosta, including most of the fast-food stores on Ashley Street and St. Augustine Road.

Beyond that, all the big parking lot owners need to put trash cans out like Valdosta ordinances require them to do. The only business in Valdosta that does that now is (believe it or not) Wal-Mart. Why? Because their trash was blowing across Norman Drive a few years ago, and the owner across the street happens to be a well-known attorney.

WWALS never prefers legal action. We prefer persuasion.

How about some nice green signs to put out, saying things like

Business X keeps trash out of Sugar Creek


Business Y asks everyone to use the parking lot trash cans to keep trash out of our waterways

Maybe the City of Valdosta can make such signs.

If not, WWALS would be happy to make them and sell them to qualifying businesses.

We don’t like to see what I give long odds is Valdosta trash down in Hamilton County, Florida, in the Chittie Bend East Swallet.

[Too much trash, 14:13:27]
Too much trash, 14:13:27

Higher Up: Trash Producers

The real trash problem is the companies that make all that single-use garbage.

Sure, people shouldn’t litter. But why is there so much litter to throw away? Because it’s cheaper for soft drink and beer and water vendors, so more profitable. Profitable for them, at the expense of our waterways and health. For more than fifty years, those companies have tried to shift the blame to individuals for littering.

Crying Indian
A Keep America Beautiful advertisement by the Ad Council, which was launched in 1971. (Ad Council) – Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

The famous Crying “Indian” was Italian-American, and that ad was part of a campaign by the front group Keep America Beautiful. Finis Dunaway, Chicago Tribune, 21 November 2017, The ‘Crying Indian’ ad that fooled the environmental movement,

Keep America Beautiful was founded in 1953 by the American Can Co. and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., who were later joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Co. During the 1960s, Keep America Beautiful anti-litter campaigns featured Susan Spotless, a white girl who wore a spotless white dress and pointed her accusatory finger at pieces of trash heedlessly dropped by her parents. The campaign used the wagging finger of a child to condemn individuals for being bad parents, irresponsible citizens and unpatriotic Americans. But by 1971, Susan Spotless no longer captured the zeitgeist of the burgeoning environmental movement and rising concerns about pollution.

The shift from Keep America Beautiful’s bland admonishments about litter to the Crying Indian did not represent an embrace of ecological values but instead indicated industry’s fear of them. In the time leading up to the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental demonstrations across the United States focused on the issue of throwaway containers. All these protests held industry — not consumers — responsible for the proliferation of disposable items that depleted natural resources and created a solid waste crisis. Enter the Crying Indian, a new public relations effort that incorporated ecological values but deflected attention from beverage and packaging industry practices.

Well, it’s time for the chickens to come home to roost.

Maryland and Colorado have already passed bans against styrofoam packaging. Georgia or Florida could be next.

And in Georgia, local governments can go ahead and do that.

So, let’s get some trash traps installed.

But local businesses need to clean up their act, literally.

And then we all need to go up the economic stream to the companies that sell this single-use trash, and get them to stop.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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