Ashburn and Rochelle sewage spills 2024-03-09

Update 2024-03-29: Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28.

Yes, there was a lot of rain on March 9, 2024, but 315,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled by Ashburn into two river watersheds seems a bit much.

And we finally got a report of the Rochelle Sook Road spill of that same day, of 10,000 gallons into a ditch that went into Reynolds Creek and from there into the Alapaha River.

[Rochelle and Ashburn spills and maps]
Rochelle and Ashburn spills and maps

On March 9 I reported that on Wednesday, March 6, GA-EPD reported that Rochelle spilled 10,000 gallons of raw sewage on Monday, February 12, due to “Wet weather” from “Sook Road manhole.”

[Rochelle 10,000 gallon sewage spill 2024-02-12]
Rochelle 10,000 gallon sewage spill 2024-02-12

The waterway was given as “none” and the river basin is blank in the report. We informed GA-EPD that Sook Road is on a ditch that runs into Reynolds Creek into Mill Creek into the Alapaha River. We asked why it took more than four weeks to show up, why the report has so little information, and why it does not appear in later Sewage Spills Reports.

On March 15 I relayed that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) tells us via email that Rochelle, GA, had another spill on March 9 through 13, 2024. We don’t know how much. We do know all of Rochelle is upstream from the Alapaha River.

GA-EPD did clarify why the earlier, February 12, 10,000 gallon spill took more than three weeks to appear in the Sewage Spills Report: “The spill was reported to us via email on Feb. 15th. It was entered into GAPDES on the 27th due to staffing vacancies and the Program manager being on vacation. However, it was entered into CTS on Feb. 16th . See attached link:

As to why the earlier Rochelle spill disappeared from the Sewage Spills Report, the answer was, “Only lasted from 09:45 until 16:00 on the 12th

I asked, “I don’t understand the answer about why it is not in later Sewage Spills Reports. Normally an item stays in there for 30 days until it rolls off. Spills for Tifton and Ashburn are still in there today, even though they occured in February. Why is this Rochelle spill different?”

Answer, “I do believe that spills to the ground don’t normally make it on the daily spill report. If it was originally updated to a spill to the ground, it may have fallen off for the report.”

That’s an exception I was not previously aware of.

So today, March 22, I see that the March 9 Rochelle spill appeared in the March 21 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report, as 10,000 gallons into Reynolds Creek. Thanks, GA-EPD.

[2024-03-09 Rochelle Sook Road spill in 2024-03-21 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report]
2024-03-09 Rochelle Sook Road spill in 2024-03-21 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report

However, while there’s a BEGIN DATE column, there’s no END DATE column, so that report does not include what we already got by email, that the spill lasted for three days.

Meanwhile, also on March 9, Ashburn had three spills.

On March 19, GA-EPD reported a 10,000-gallon spill from Ashburn’s MKL Lift Station into Ashburn Branch, which ends up in the Little River.

[2024-03-09 Ashburn spill in 2024-03-19 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report]
2024-03-09 Ashburn spill in 2024-03-19 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report

In this map, Rochelle is towards the top and Ashburn is towards the left. The most upstream part of the Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT), Sheboggy Boat Ramp, is towards the bottom right.

[Rochelle and Ashburn in ARWT]
Rochelle and Ashburn in the WWALS map of the Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT).

On March 20 GA-EPD reported two more Ashburn spills, both in the Alapaha River Basin. One from “Industrial Road” was 5,000 gallons and went into “Ditch”. The other was 300,000 gallons from Rockhouse Road and Sylvia Drive, into Hat Creek.

[2024-03-09 Ashburn spills in 2024-03-20 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report]
2024-03-09 Ashburn spills in 2024-03-20 GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report

Ashburn is near the top of this map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).

[Ashburn in WLRWT]
Ashburn in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).

As you can see by these maps, Ashburn and Rochelle are so far upstream their spills do not show up in any water quality sampling we know of.

Well, except they both should have to do followup sampling, since they both had spills of 10,000 gallons or more, which usually count as major spills requiring followup sampling.

These are not all of Ashburn’s recent spills, just the most recent ones.

Also, as of today, March 22, 2024, GA-EPD has started including three new columns in its Sewage Spills Report: LATITUDE, LONGITUDE, and “IS ENTERED WATERWAY”. That last column is either Y or N for each row, apparently as in entered waters of the state or not.

I’ve been suggesting latitude and longitude for years. Thanks, GA-EPD!

 -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!