Pictures: Valdosta WWTP water quality lab ribbon cutting 2024-03-05

Update 2024-03-09: Clean rivers and creek 2024-03-06.

I got there just after the speeches, and before the ribbon cutting. During the lab tour and after, Malia Thomas interviewed me for WTXL TV, and of course Jason Barnes, Valdosta Acting Utilities Director.

[Ribbon cutting, Valdosta water quality lab tour, WTXL reporting 2024-03-05]
Ribbon cutting, Valdosta water quality lab tour, WTXL reporting 2024-03-05

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said he mentioned me favorably during his speech.

[Ribbon cutting]
Ribbon cutting

Those are big scissors.

[The ribbon is cut]
The ribbon is cut

Malia Thomas, WTXL ABC27 TV, March 5, 2024, VIDEO: Valdosta debuts Withlacoochee Pollution Control Plant facility; see how it’s supposed to help,

[Entrance sign with WTXL reporter Malia Thomas]
Entrance sign with WTXL reporter Malia Thomas

Neighbors in Valdosta have had concerns with water quality. They hope a new lab is a step towards helping our infrastructure.

[More testing, more places, quicker reporting --Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman]
More testing, more places, quicker reporting –Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman

“More testing, more places, more reports, more quickly.”

Valdosta did promise faster reporting. We’ll see if they test more places, such as resuming the downstream Withlacoochee River sites they stopped testing in September 2023.

I’m Malia Thomas, your neighborhood reporter in Valdosta, and I’m checking back in with neighbors who’ve been calling for more water testing.

[Lab tour]
Lab tour

Valdosta has built a new Withlacoochee Lab Facility to help modernize and streamline wastewater treatment capabilities and is getting operations off the ground.

This news comes as a much needed upgrade to neighbors like John Quarterman.

You may remember him from my story on code enforcement for the city.

Here’s that earlier story:

He tells me he hopes this new facility will keep our waterways safe and clean.

[Malia Thomas at Sugar Creek WaterGoat]
Malia Thomas at Sugar Creek WaterGoat

“I got to compliment the acting utilities director Jason Barnes.”

He also tells me while he and other neighbors have had concerns with sewage spills, he commends the city for being proactive.

[Reporting at gate sign]
Reporting at gate sign

“I think it’s greatly improved from you know even a year or so ago. There’s fewer spills that get resolved quicker and the amounts spilled are less of course nobody’s going to be happy until there’s no spills.”

The city staff were quite apprehensive while I was talking to Malia.

[Apprehensive staff]
Apprehensive staff

But they actually had nothing to worry about. I will criticize Valdosta when needed, but yesterday they were doing something right.

Her story continues:

The city has been working to correct our area’s aging infrastructure.

Knob Hill Drive in particular has seen over 100,000 gallons of sewage spilled in the area in the last 55 days.

[Three small Valdosta Sewage Spills into Three Mile Branch 2024-02-27: 1500 gallons each @ 215 Knob Hill Road, 300 Knob Hill, & 1016 Williamsburg Drive 2024-02-27]
Three small Valdosta Sewage Spills into Three Mile Branch 2024-02-27: 1500 gallons each @ 215 Knob Hill Road, 300 Knob Hill, & 1016 Williamsburg Drive 2024-02-27

The 100,000-gallon Knob Hill Road spill was on January 10, 2024, plus 100 gallons on February 20, and 4,500 gallons on February 27.

Back to the story:

Jason Barnes, our city’s assistant utilities manager, tells me as far as our water’s goes, there’s no reason to be concerned, and the new facility will make sure of that.

“We’re hoping to be able to just be able to test better and get better results faster results saving some time on analysis of all our samplings we got for our infrastructure and wastewater facility.”

[Jason Barnes, Acting Valdosta Utilities Director]
Jason Barnes, Acting Valdosta Utilities Director

With the new consolidated lab, the city is hoping for instantaneous testing for future water treatment. In Valdosta, Im Malia Thomas, reporting for ABC27.

Thanks, Malia.

I also recommended to the Valdosta PR people that they should toot Valdosta’s own horn more. It’s not my job to tell people everything Valdosta is doing right. I do advocacy, which is about critizing problems and trying to get them fixed.

The public, especially downstream, has many misconceptions about water quality in the Withlacoochee River, and Valdosta has a well-deserved reputation of decades of sewage spills. If the sewage situation is getting better, Valdosta needs to get its own word out.

 -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!