Yet another Valdosta E. Park Ave. sewage spill near Knights Creek 2023-12-11

Update 2023-12-20: End date and waterway affected of Valdosta 425,000 gallon sewage spill 2023-12-11.

Update 2023-12-19: Valdosta reports to GA-EPD about two recent sewage spills 2023-12-02.

Update 2023-12-15: Videos: Testing three sites in Florida and Georgia, Withlacoochee River 2023-12-14.

Are we going back to the bad old days of Valdosta sewage spill reports so vague you can’t tell where they are, and reported many days later?

Valdosta spilled almost half a million gallons of sewage Monday, didn’t get around to telling the public until today, and then only with a press release that doesn’t say which part of town or which waterway was affected.

[Spills into Knights Creek, Alapaha River Basin, and One Mile Branch, Withlacoochee River Basin]
Spills into Knights Creek, Alapaha River Basin, and One Mile Branch, Withlacoochee River Basin

Oh, and Valdosta had another spill two weeks ago that was only reported to GA-EPD on this Tuesday, and so far as I’ve seen not to the public at all.

The Valdosta press release for the big spill of Monday says it was “in the 1800 Block of Park Avenue.” 1800 West Park Avenue is next to Sugar Creek in the Withlacoochee River Basin. 1800 East Park Avenue is the vague location previously reported for many sewer spills related to the collapsed sewer main near Knights Creek in the Alapaha River Basin.

The press release does not name any creek, so we can’t tell by that. We can infer by the rest of the sentence that E. Park Ave. was meant, because “inspecting manholes and sewer lines on the current Bypass and Sanitary Sewer line upgrades project” probably refers to the work related to those previous spills.

188 E. Park Ave. and Knights Creek in the WWALS map of the Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT)

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division in its Sewage Spills Report of today says Valdosta spilled 7,500 gallons of raw sewage at 1800 Block E. Park Ave. on December 4, with SPILL PRIMARY CAUSE “Contractor”. So we’re going back to blaming the contractor?

Even after the Consent-Order-required Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for contractors?

[2023-12-04 E. Park Ave. 7,500 gallon spill]
2023-12-04 E. Park Ave. 7,500 gallon spill

And the December 2 Pin Oak Circle spill finally showed up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report for this Tuesday, December 23, 2023, with SPILL PRIMARY CAUSE “Debris”. See the WWALS report on that one for more detail.

[2023-12-02 Pin Oak Circle Spill]
2023-12-02 Pin Oak Circle Spill

The Press Release

Received this afternoon.

DATE: Friday, December 15, 2023
CONTACT: Sharah Denton, Community Relations & Marketing Manager
Telephone: (229) 259-3548

Sanitary Sewer Line Causes Overflow

On December 11th, 2023, Utility Central Lines Personnel were inspecting manholes and sewer lines on the current Bypass and Sanitary Sewer line upgrades project in the 1800 Block of Park Avenue. During this inspection they found a Sanitary Sewer manhole in a state of overflow. All Utility divisions were immediately notified and began investigation into the cause of the overflow. It was found that the system was inundated with water due to recent rain events and caused a hydraulic overload.

This overload of the system is due to Infiltration and Inflow, which is the process of groundwater, or water from sources other than domestic wastewater, entering sanitary sewers. This Hydraulic Overload overwhelmed the pumping bypass system in place. Personnel began working the issue and were able to obtain more pumps, reorient the current setup and resolve the issue. An estimated 425,000 gallons of wastewater were released from the manhole and into the surrounding area before the system was able to catch up. City staff immediately began cleanup procedures and disinfection at the overflow location. All appropriate regulatory and public health agencies were notified.

Preventing sewer spills has been, and will continue to be, the city’s top priority through the ongoing Collection System Rehab Program, which includes Manhole Rehab, the Smoke Testing Program, Sewer Main Lining, and Sewer Main Replacement. In addition, the Utilities Department has an ongoing River Sampling Program that tests waters at different locations down the Withlacoochee River, Mud Creek, and various tributaries. The city has continued to install generators at the lift stations to ensure uninterrupted operation during power failures.

In addition to the programs listed above, in 2020, the Utilities Department initiated two additional programs, the “Creek Crossing” program, and the “Cap the Cleanout” program, to help locate Infiltration and Inflow in the Collection System. These programs are designed to specifically check each manhole and sewer line on or near water to verify proper operation and to ensure each house has its cleanout cap installed and the cleanout is in working order.

The city will continue its ongoing efforts to improve the infrastructure of the sewer system to eliminate these issues in the future. For more information, please contact the City of Valdosta Utilities Department, Environmental Division at 229-259-3592.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!