Update 2024-01-26: Five clean rivers and a clean creek 2024-01-25.
I discovered a can of worms when I took a few pictures to illustrate the 100,000-gallon Knob Hill Road or Williamsburg Drive, Valdosta sewage spill of 10-12 January 2024.
The actual location is not quite where I was told by Valdosta Utilities. But I cut them a lot of slack for that, because they were working on getting it stopped, not precisely determining ownership of the affected properties.
More importantly, according to Valdosta Utilities Acting Director Jason Barnes, the cause was not as first thought a collapsed sewer main. When Utilities examined the pipes, they found rocks and some sort of lid in them.
And according to Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson yesterday, they also found other materials that never should have been in a sewer pipe. I will leave it to the City of Valdosta to reveal in their own time exactly what they found.
From the descriptions I heard, those things could not have gotten in there accidentally, and they could not have been washed into the sewer main by stormwater.
The basic point seems clear: this ten-times-major spill was not caused by failing old sewer infrastructure. It was caused by somebody putting things into the sewer pipes that never should have been there. Vandalism is one of the more polite words for that.
Plus the Mayor is making the City of Valdosta an offer of a location for a WaterGoat trash trap.
So I went to the reported location of the sewage spill, “213 Knob Dr”, which apparently the Georgia Environmental Proection Division (GA-EPD) abbreviated from 213 Knob Hill Road in its Sewage Spills Report for January 16, 2024.
Here is that address, 213 Knob Hill Road.
Around back you can see a sewage spill sign. Note the power pole just across a backyard drainage ditch.
Lime uphill from a sewer pipe with a Valdosta sewage spill sign. That sure seems like the spill location.
That’s on a drainage ditch just east of the power line, and at the bottom of the backyard drainage ditch. The big drainage ditch goes into Three Mile Branch, which runs into the Withlacoochee River at the southwest corner of Langdale Park.
In the Lowndes County Tax Assessors map, you can see that power pole and the backyard drainage ditch, leading to the bigger ditch. If the Tax Assessors property lines are drawn correctly, that spill sign is actually in the corner of Langdale Park.
Which matches what VALORGIS shows. See the green sewer line running south of the Williamsburg Drive lots, and west through the Knob Hill Drive lots. Where that sewer line crosses the big drainage ditch is on the property of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority. Which is the east corner of Langdale Park.
The actual spill is on the east side of the big drainage ditch. It’s hard to tell whether the ditch is right on the property line, but if it is, the spill itself was on the property of Stephen P. Lincoln.
Looking between 213 and 215 Knob Hill Drive, you can see the spill sign is actually behind 215, not 213.
The owner at 215 Knob Hill Drive came out to confirm that location. Also, he mentioned that Valdosta is taking daily water quality samples from the big ditch uphill from the spill, but he has not seen any downstream sampling.
He provided what may be a clue to the downstream sample site. He said that the spill had affected a detention pond on Pebblewood Drive.
So I left the Worthington Woods subdivision, and drove around North Valdosta Road and Country Club Drive to reach Pebblewood Drive.
As you’ve already seen by the maps, these detention ponds are not far as the crow flies or the sewage runs down the ditch.
I would guess Valdosta Utilities is sampling downstream of the spill by walking to Three Mile Branch from one of these detention ponds.
Seen from the north side of the lower detention pond, the spill site is near the power pole in front of the board fence.
You can maybe see the yellow spill sign in the weeds to the right of the foreground power pole.
How did sewage from that drainage ditch get into the detention pond? Maybe some of it came out of this manhole near the southwest corner of that pond. That manhole had clearly been raised much higher very recently.
This is looking across the detention pond to Knob Hill Road. It’s not very far; about 530 feet.
Recalling Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson had told me he was willing to let the city put a WaterGoat trash trap in his back yard, I went six houses to the east and interrupted his lunch. This is Three Mile Branch behind his house.
The creek itself downstream from Country Club Drive is owned by the City of Valdosta, in a strip averaging about 250 feet wide.
Between the city land and the Mayor’s property there’s a hundred-foot-wide strip owned by George Eager Family LLC, which is offering to sell the bit behind his house to the Mayor. Since VALORGIS says the sewer main runs through that Eager property, presumably this manhole is on the Eager property.
This is looking from the Mayor’s backyard fence across the Eager property and the manhole to Three Mile Branch, which is below the wall of shrubbery in the background.
I asked the Mayor to clarify: is he offering to buy a WaterGoat? No, he said, he is offering for the city to buy a WaterGoat, and he is offering to man it. By man it, because of previous discussions, I believe he means to clean trash out of it.
The City Engineer does not want to put a WaterGoat on Country Club Drive yet, because massive roadwork is planned there, and any access would have to be redone later.
So it seems to me the Mayor is making quite an attractive offer.
All this because I thought I’d take a few pictures on the way back from town.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®