Valdosta is the main waterway trash problem in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia and Florida. Which gives the City government an opportunity to fix that problem.
Malia Thomas, WTXL, December 18, 2023, Area group pushes code enforcement for dealing with Valdosta’s trash,
WWALS Watershed Coalition is pushing the City of Valdosta to strictly enforce ordinances as a means of keeping the streets clean.
The video starts with WTXL Reporter Malia Thomas pointing at trash in a parking lot.
I’m pretty sure that’s at the MegaMart on Lee Street at Vallotton Drive. I took her there when she was working for the Valdosta Daily Times, back in February and May. You can see that parking lot drains into One Mile Branch, with the Azalea City Trail also clearly visible on the other side.
On with the report:
This group is wanting the city to clean up its act.
“Yes, I believe they’re trying, but I mean really, a year after the mayor stood there, I mean how long does it take to put a trash can or two down there at the bottom of the parking lot?”
It was December 15, 2022, when Valdosta Mayor Scott James stood at the bottom of the parking lot on St. Augustine Road just above Hightower Creek, and said something needed to be done.
A year later, there are still no trash cans there, where people park, eat their fast food lunches, and toss the trash because there are no nearby trash cans. Valdosta’s trash ordinances says trash cans in parking lots must be strategically placed. Yet the nearest trash cans are up along the store fronts, well more than the 30 paces that Walt Disney observed people will walk before tossing trash.
Mayor James saw this TV report, and he tells me he will look into that again.
I’m Malia Thomas, in Valdosta.
The city has been creating initiatives like Love Where You Live to keep our neighborhoods beautiful.
This local group is wanting more to be done.
Meet John Quarterman.
He’s the Suwannee [Riverkeeper] of [WWALS] Watershed Coalition.
“People shouldn’t litter but the ordinances are quite clear that parking lot owners and managers are not to let anything get off their parking lots even if it came from somewhere else no matter where it came from.”
He tells me the problem won’t make serious headway until businesses are respecting ordinances.
The point of meeting at the dumpsters behind Pyramid Roofing, 2026 Marion St, Valdosta, GA 31602, is that until recently those dumpsters had no locks. So scavengers would root around in them and strew trash. Which would wash eventually into One Mile Branch, which drains into Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River, according to Valdosta’s own Master Stormwater Management Plan.
The good news is that all three of those dumpsters now have locks. According to a local business employee who came out to put trash in one of them, some of those locks are recent, apparently that same week.
And another advantage of the locks is that they keep people from putting trash into the dumpsters. Previously, the local businesses were having trouble fitting their own trash in because too many other people were using their dumpsters.
So locks on dumpsters are a cheap and easy fix with multiple advantages.
Malia Thomas continued her story:
To better understand how the city’s tackling the trash issue, I spoke with our sustainability coordinator Chandra McCallister.
And since that person is in charge of cleanups, she mostly talked about cleanups:
She tells me the city has regular clean ups and the trash is no different from other cities.
Actually, Valdosta is different from any other city in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia or Florida, because it is the most populous city, and its trash mostly drains down creeks into the Withlacoochee River. Valdosta trash also drains down other creeks into the Alapahoochee River and then the Alapaha River.
Chandra McCallister added:
We do ask citizens to kind of help us keep up with the litter and try not to throw it out. We have trash cans posted on random corners through the city where people can put their trash at.
That’s a start. But Chandra McCallister did not address the city’s trash ordinances about parking lots.
That would be Anetra Riley’s department, since she is in charge of the City Marshalls. And those Marshalls have been notifying parking lot owners, citing some of them, and by now probably taking some to court. You may have noticed more parking lots have trash cans now: that’s why.
Malia Thomas then did a flashback to the Sugar Creek WaterGoat with Saige Williams and Russell Allen McBride.
It’s one neighbor’s idea of getting ahead of the problem.
I checked with the data on how much trash the WaterGoat has collected in the Sugar Creek area alone.
This year, it has collected 27.25 96 gallon cans of trash.
That’s what Russell told me.
As I told Malia, that adds up to about 2,180 pounds, or more than a ton of trash, collected both at the WaterGoat and in boating collection of overflow downstream.
Meanwhile, WWALS on seven river cleanups in 2023 collected about 1,500 pounds of trash, or 3/4 of a ton.
By far most of that trash in the Withlacoochee came from Valdosta, according to the brand names and addresses on much of the trash.
Back to the TV story.
John tells me it’s a community effort, but focusing on the businesses that violate ordinances is the major difference maker.
“I compliment them on the progress, I hope they keep going ahead with it, and get the problem more fixed.”
She ended with a note on an upcoming Valdosta city holiday cleanup.
I also talked to her about the City of Valdosta’s opportunity to do something about limiting single-use packaging. Remember, The Real Trash Problem is the Producers, and How to Stop It.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®