Update 2023-07-29: Clean Withlacoochee River, filthy Crawford and Sugar Creeks 2023-07-28.
That word “immediately,” I don’t think it means wait yet another day before informing the public, after Valdosta Utilities already waited four days to tell GA-EPD about the sewage spill.
Even though Valdosta wrote to GA-EPD, “we did not observe any direct flow to the creek,” Valdosta’s own state-required followup testing showed too-high Fecal coliform and E. coli in Knights Creek a week later, downstream, but not upstream, of the spill. Just because they didn’t see the sewage running over the ground doesn’t mean it’s not seeping through the vegetation or the ground itself.
Maybe you’re as tired as I am of Valdosta blaming sewage spills on contractors. Who hires the contractors? Who supervises them? Why doesn’t Valdosta’s fancy SCADA system alert the city to these spills early, where, when, and how much?
The information seemed pretty skimpy that Valdosta Utilities supplied to the public about its July 6, 2023, sewage spill into Knights Creek. Also, I wanted to know when did Valdosta tell GA-EPD, since that spill did not show up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report for a long time, Not until after I asked GA-EPD about it, actually, even though Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy had said he would look into that.
So I filed an open records request with the City of Valdosta for all communications between Valdosta and GA-EPD about Valdosta’s last three sewage spills. I only got back information about the Knights Creek spill, so here is that much.
Let me say that recent communications from Valdosta Utilities have been much improved in recent days, coming from Assistant Director Jason Barnes. Barnes took it upon himself to warn WWALS about contamination in Sugar Creek before the cleanup paddle we had scheduled for last Saturday, so we converted it into an on-land cleanup. That elevated Fecal coliform and E. coli came from Valdosta’s July 17, 2023, spill into Hightower Creek near River Street, upstream from Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River. Reporting for that July 17th spill was much better: a press release went out the next day, and it also appeared in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report the day after the spill. And Jason Barnes showed up in person to see about getting a warning sign placed at Sugar Creek.
Back to the July 6, 2023, spill into Knights Creek, above Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.
Utilities Director Bradley L. Eyre did not write to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) until July 10th, four days after the spill was discovered on July 6th. Continue reading