Update 2023-08-09: Bad water quality upstream Withlacoochee River 2023-08-07.
Valdosta needs to do what we discussed on WTXL TV last week, and more, related to its chronic sewage problem.
“It’s about finding more problems, doing some testing, finding them so they’ll know what to fix so that’s a good thing,” said John [S.] Quarterman, the Suwa[n]nee Riverkeeper with the WWALS Water Coalition. “And I would think that I’m the one that told them about that grant opportunity in the first place so it’s good to see they’re getting some use out of it.”
Ariel Schiller, WTXL, July 27, 2023, City of Valdosta matches Georgia EPD water planning seed grant,
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — The city of Valdosta approved matching funds for a water planning seed grant, the total amount with the grant and matching funds equals $150,000. The WWALS Watershed Coalition says the grant will help them identify more areas that need improvement throughout the city.
“It’s about finding more problems, doing some testing, finding them so they’ll know what to fix so that’s a good thing,” said John Quarterman, the Suwanee Riverkeeper with the WWALS Water Coalition. “And I would think that I’m the one that told them about that grant opportunity in the first place so it’s good to see they’re getting some use out of it.”
He says water quality testing is integral to make sure the water is safe. The city posts results of water quality testing on their website, but after several sewage spills in the last year he says the concerns are at an all time high.
“Results were still very high down stream on Knights Creek yet they stopped testing after a week,” he said. “They need to do more testing to see if it’s continuing. They also need to check to see if it’s coming out upstream or is it still just running off from where it did previously.”
Thursday July 20, the city approved $75,113 in matching funds for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s grant. The now former utilities director, Brad Eyre, made the presentation, where he said the money will help them with identifying septic systems near major creeks and tributaries, and provide educational materials to effected residents. It will also help create a committee to update storm water quality codes, water quality testing, and more. City of Valdosta Community Relations and Marketing Manager, Sharah Denton, confirmed to ABC27 Thursday that Eyre is no longer with the city.
I repeatedly praised Utilities Assistant Director Jason Barnes, but that didn’t get into the story.
Back to the TV report:
Quarterman says the water from Knights Creek looks normal for creek water, he says the problem is there’s no evidence of testing in the last week so there’s no way to know what levels of contaminants are in the water.
His end goal is making sure the city is more forthcoming with information on sewage spills.
“Let the public know because you don’t want to be fishing in that creek with that stuff in it,” Quarterman said. “Downstream there’s the the Alapahoochee river and Alapaha river people don’t want to be swimming, paddling, fishing if this is happening.”
The way the grant breaks down, Georgia EPD is contributing $74,887, the city is matching $30,087 for time and efforts and $45,026 in cash. ABC27 asked to speak with the mayor about the grant for this story but the city was unable to fulfill that request.
- Valdosta’s own facebook live video of the June 20, 2023, Valdosta City Council meeting in which they approved this grant match.
- The relevant part of the board packet for that City Council meeting, received in response to a WWALS open records request.
- The grant application that Valdosta sent to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD).
For more about the WWALS volunteer water quality testing program, see:
That program includes a WWALS composite spreadsheet of water quality results, including from the thrice-weekly Withlacoochee River testing that Valdosta is required to do by a GA-EPD Enforcement Order.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®