Tag Archives: consent order

Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28

Update 2024-04-05: Apparently clean rivers after rain 2024-04-04.

We got bad results for Thursday for the Alapaha River. We have few other results, but we know there was much rain Wednesday and Thursday, and that usually washes contamination into the rivers.

If I were you, I would pick something else to do this weekend instead of boating, swimming, or fishing.

Also, Ashburn had yet another spill, although that was probably too far upstream to have much effect. It sure looks like there was some sort of overflow from the city of Alapaha wastewater treatment plant, even though none has yet shown up in the reports.

Instead, join us a week from Saturday for Withlacoochee River Earth Day Cleanup, Langdale Park Boat Ramp 2024-04-13.

Valdosta’s most recent upstream Withlacoochee River results are for Wednesday a week ago. Apparently they did not post their Wednesday results for this week because today is a holiday.

Similarly, most of the usual WWALS testers are off because of the holiday weekend.

[Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28]
Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28

There are no Valdosta Monday results, because, Continue reading

Clean rivers 2024-03-20

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

We got good results for Wednesday for the Withlacoochee River and Alapaha Rivers. and for Thursday for the Alapaha River.

Valdosta’s recent upstream Withlacoochee River results for Wednesday are good, all two sites.

[Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-20]
Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-20

There are no Valdosta Monday results, because, as we learned last week from Acting Utilities Director Jason Barnes, “we are collecting once a week.”

As previously noted, Valdosta’s last downstream tests were September 1, 2023. Since for two weeks now Valdosta has reported “No Sample” for North Valdosta Road, we guess they’re not collecting there any more, either.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that it is now three years (minus one month) since the March, 2020, GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta that required downstream testing as a way to reduce the amount of the fine.

It rained today, and more is predicted for tomorrow. That may wash some contamination into the rivers. I’d recommend the Suwannee, Alapaha, or Santa Fe Rivers for this weekend.

For example, join Shirley Kokidko and others Sunday, Suwannee River Wilderness Paddle, Griffis Fish Camp to Fargo 2024-03-24.

The rivers are at pretty good paddling levels, and it’s not cold. So watch the weather, bring rain gear, and happy paddling, fishing, and maybe swimming this weekend. Continue reading

Clean rivers 2024-03-13

Update 2024-03-22: Ashburn and Rochelle sewage spills 2024-03-09.

We got good results for Wednesday for the Santa Fe and Withlacoochee Rivers and for Thursday for the Alapaha River.

Valdosta’s recent upstream Withlacoochee River results through Wednesday are good.

[Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-13]
Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-13

There are no Valdosta Monday results, because, according to Acting Utilities Director Jason Barnes, “we are collecting once a week.”

He did not say why. Perhaps it is not coincidental that it is now three years (minus one month) since the March, 2020, GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta that required downstream testing as a way to reduce the amount of the fine.

As previously noted, Valdosta’s last downstream tests were September 1, 2023.

There’s a chance of rain today, and more chance Sunday.

The rivers are at pretty good paddling levels, and it’s not cold. So watch the weather, bring rain gear, and happy paddling, fishing, and maybe swimming this weekend.

[Chart: Clean Rivers 2024-03-13]
Chart: Clean Rivers 2024-03-13
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of water quality results, rainfall, and sewage spills, see:
https://wwals.net/issues/testing

No sewage spills were reported in the past week in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida or in the Georgia Sewage Spills Report.

However, 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: https://cts.gaepd.org/Public/ComplaintDetails/107821

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.

I still wonder whether those very bad downstream Knights Creek results for Wednesday week after significant rain the day before indicated an unreported sewage spill upstream from the Alapahoochee and Alapaha Rivers?

In case you’re not aware, GA-EPD is woefully underfunded. Whenever I get a chance, I suggest to Georgia state legislators that EPD should be funded more.

WWALS tester Kimberly Godden Tanner said everything Continue reading

Okefenokee bills, Georgia legislature 2024-02-21

As crossover day approaches in the Georgia legislature, events are moving faster about the proposed strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

In addition to a mining prohibition bill that has been in the legislature since last year, now there is a fine, draft permits, and two new bills, for increased criminal penalties, and for a mining moratorium (with a big catch).

None of these are likely to stop this specific “demonstration” mine, but some of them could prevent any further such mines.

Crossover day is the day by which a bill has to have been passed by one house to get into the other house. It’s February 29 this year, Thursday of next week.

[Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: 15 miles]
Okefenokee NationaGl Wildlife Refuge: 15 miles
Map courtesy Prof. Can Denizman and students, Valdosta State University.

Draft Permits

As previously mentioned, On February 9, 2024, GA-EPD published draft permits (surface mining, water withdrawal, and air quality). for the applications by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM) to strip mine for titanium dioxide (TiO2) within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, between Moniac and St. George, Georgia. You have until April 9 to comment, and there is a public online meeting on March 5.

Details here:
https://wwals.net/?p=64142

Consent Orders

Back in January, I was told by a former state legislator that these miners be very careful to avoid infractions, because they had a lot of money riding on their venture. A week later, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) issued a Consent Order on TPM, saying back in 2018 the miners had drilled soil samples without a professional geologist or engineer supervising, as required by state law, and they also failed to provide a letter of credit or a performance bond. TPM “voluntarily” agreed to pay a tiny fine of $20,000. For more details, see Russ Bynum, AP, 24 January 2024, Company seeking to mine near Okefenokee will pay $20,000 to settle environmental violation claims.

This is not the first time TPM has been under a Consent Order. Continue reading

Scotti and Sara Jay discovered One Mile Branch fish kill, leading to GA-EPD Consent Order 2023-09-23

Update 2024-02-22: Slight update on this Consent Order in Valdosta Boone Drive and Knob Hill small sewage spills 2024-02-20.

Thanks to Scotti Jay Jones for discovering and photographing a fish kill on One Mile Branch a year ago, and for taking water quality samples. Thanks to Sara Jay Jones for plating those samples. Suwannee Riverkeeper reported all that to GA-EPD.

One year later, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD), levied a Consent Order on the City of Valdosta for that fish kill and various sewage spills.

[IG: Sara and Scotti Jay Jones, the GA-EPD Consent Order, location map, and fish kill]
IG: Sara and Scotti Jay Jones, the GA-EPD Consent Order, location map, and fish kill

Maybe that Consent Order and its requirements for Standard Operating Procedures will help prevent sewage spills from getting into One Mile Branch, Hightower Creek, and Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River, as well as into Knights Creek into Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River. There have also been many personnel changes in the Valdosta City government, and the current Acting Utilities Director so far seems like a big improvement.

And you can join Scotti and Sara and WWALS at Iche Nippy Dip Day Swim and Paddle, Ichetucknee River, Ichetucknee Headspring, 2024-01-06.

Below are links and snippets for previous WWALS blog posts during that year. Continue reading

Valdosta completing buys of 37 sewer lift station generators @ VCC 2022-03-10

Tonight Valdosta Mayor and Council will approve the last two of 37 emergency standby generators for lift stations, which is a milestone for Valdosta’s ongoing upgrades to its sanitary sewer system. Congratulations, Valdosta Mayor and Council and staff!

About Item 5.a. Consideration of bids for the purchase of two emergency standby Generators for Lift Stations located at Dillard’s and the Second Harvest Food Bank, on tonight’s agenda:

[Photograph of a lift station generator @ VCC 2022-03-10]
Photograph of a lift station generator @ VCC 2022-03-10

BUDGET IMPACT/FUNDING SOURCE: User Fees

HISTORY: To ensure continued sewage lift station operations during power outages and to satisfy the Georgia Environmental Protection Division requirements, the Utilities Department developed a scope of work to purchase two emergency standby generators. These generators are needed to prevent lift station failures due to power outages from storms or other unexpected causes. Several years ago, the City initiated a program to purchase standby generators or emergency standby diesel pumps for all of its existing sewage lift stations. These are the final two generators needed to complete the Program. Once they are installed, all 37 of our lift stations will have some form of dedicated emergency backup capability from generators and/or backup diesel pumps. Additionally, this will complete Condition 18 of the EPD Consent Order which requires the installation of fixed generators and/or backup pumps at all lift stations by September, 2023. Moving forward, all new City lift stations will include a dedicated emergency backup capability as part of their construction.

I added the emphasis to the above quotation. The italicized part about going forward is maybe as important as the boldfaced part about catching up.

Thanks to Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll for pointing out this completion of the lift station generator purchases.

Now we look forward to Valdosta finishing fixing manholes and sewer lines that leak in big rains, such as the one on Wainwright Drive at One Mile Branch.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Valdosta Manhole Rehabilitation lists 2021-07-13

Update 2021-07-16 Clean Withlacoochee River 2021-07-15.

I thank the City of Valdosta for promptly sending their list of manholes to be rehabilitated, and manholes already rehabilitated, both in response to a WWALS Georgia Open Records Act request.

However, I am mystified why neither list includes the notorious spill locations on Mildred Street or Wainwright Drive.

I add up 358,525 gallons of sewage spilled at Mildred Street into Knights Creek in the Alapaha River Basin and 355,875 gallons at Wainwright Drive into Onemile Branch in the Withlacoochee River Basin. Those totals are each since 2015, according to records from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD).

I haven’t added up spills from all the other locations that are on the Rehab lists. I would hope there are not many that have spilled more than a third of a million gallons of raw sewage.

How many gallons does it take to get on Valdosta’s rehab list?

[Current Rehab list; already rehabilitated lists]
Current Rehab list; already rehabilitated lists

It’s also interesting that these lists include for almost every manhole specific street addresses. Unlike the vague “1200 block” addresses Valdosta puts in its sewage spill press releases, and often in its spill reports to GA-EPD.

Speaking of which, despite Valdosta’s assurances that it had reported at least the two biggest spills of July 7th to GA-EPD, there is still nothing about any of those in GA-EPD’s Sewer Spills Report.

Manhole Rehabilitation (Phase 7)

Continue reading

No Valdosta City repair work at chronic sewage spill manhole, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-14: Valdosta Manhole Rehabilitation lists 2021-07-13.

“Doesn’t look good,” WWALS member Scotti Jay summed up the situation at the Wainwright Drive Onemile Branch manhole that spilled yet again in Tropical Storm Elsa. “No lime was put out.”

[Caution, Sewage Spill, Manhole ajar, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch, Valdosta, GA]
Caution, Sewage Spill, Manhole ajar, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch, Valdosta, GA

This is a manhole at 1212 Wainwright Drive, where Valdosta, Georgia, spilled 37,500 gallons of raw sewage on July 7, 2021, during Tropical Storm Elsa. That’s the same place Valdosta has spilled numerous times before, listing it as 1208 Wainwright Drive, or “1200 block”, including 51,800 gallons 2018-12-14, 166,275 gallons 2018-12-03, 9,800 gallons 2017-01-22, and 90,500 gallons 2016-02-04. That’s a total of 355,875 gallons spilled at that one location.

Is a third of a million gallons of raw sewage not enough for Valdosta to pay attention and fix that location? Will it require a million gallons?

Back on November 11, 2017, Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse joined WWALS on a cleanup of Onemile Branch, including at the bridge in these pictures. He said they were trying to get the number of sewer spills down to zero.

Yet a year later at a Valdosta City Council meeting and then at a SRWMD Board meeting, Director Muse neglected to mention the 218,075 gallons spilled at that location alone in December 2018. In both cases I had to stand up and correct him in public.

SRWMD Board member Virginia Sanchez noted, “You don’t want to swim in a little sewage versus a lot of sewage either. Both of them are bad. A spill is bad.”

When I asked him another year later during one of the Florida dozen-county Valdosta sewage Task Force meetings with the Valdosta City Council when Wainwright Drive would be fixed, Darryl Muse did not recall that location.

Still years more later, Scotti Jay last week observed, “You would be amazed at all the incompetent work being done around the Wainwright location. With no effort whatsoever towards improving the faulty, damaged manhole. Absolutely nothing.”

WS

“Will the City of Valdosta finally repair the most dangerous sewer hole that threatens sewage intrusion. Ask your local government to update the sewer system.” Asked about the sign, Scotti Jay wrote, “it’s just zip tied. But some locations have permanent signs.” Continue reading

GA-EPD GORA response about Ray City wastewater permit violations 2021-04-05

Ray City has had a long string of wastewater violations, many each year, going back years, at its wastewater treatment plant on Cat Creek, just below Beaverdam Creek, and 8.36 Cat Creek miles upstream from the Withlacoochee River.

[Catwalk, Outfall, Fecal coliform]
Catwalk, Outfall, Fecal coliform

Most of them did not involve fecal bacteria, but two did, on monthly average, for December 2018 (see page 57), for August 2017 (see page 73). Curiously, none of these violations ever showed up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report, nor in its underlying spreadsheet going back to 2015, which is as far back as I have it. We have some idea why not about the January and February 2021 Total Suspended Solids (TSS) overflows, but not about the previous incidents.

In response to a Notice of Violation of September 22, 2020, on November 2, 2020, the City of Ray City told GA-EPD it was “in the process of developing a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to address the issue of non-compliance with the 85% Minimum BOD removal rate stipulated in our NPDES Permit.“ The City proposed to change its sampling method to deal with “periodic low influent BOD levels”, and also to get on with dealing with the “high volumes of infiltration and inflow“ it says is the cause, including filing an application for a CDBG grant before the end of March 2021.

Thanks to Jay Howell of the EPD Southwest office in Albany for scanning and emailing to me the documents of my Georgia Open Records Act (GORA) request of last week. I asked for all the enforcement actions on Ray City that I found listed on EPA ECHO, (see the previous post) together with related correspondence. documents and emailing them to me yesterday. They are on the WWALS website. Update 2021-04-07: website page labels fixed for this GORA document.

This November 2020 CAP is apparently a new one, after the CAP accepted by GA-EPD on June 19, 2019, and submitted by the City on May 2, 2019: Continue reading

Strip mine would endanger swamp 2020-05-22

In the Valdosta Daily Times today:

Signs at Exits 18 and 16 from I-75 say “Okefenokee Swamp, Stephen C. Foster State Park, 62 miles,” in hopes travellers will stay in Valdosta first.

[Okefenokee Swamp sign at I-75 exit 16.]
Okefenokee Swamp sign at I-75 exit 16.

The Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee River, a favorite paddling, birding, and fishing location of many people from here. The smoke from the 2017 West Mims Okefenokee fire reached Valdosta. Charlton County thanked Lowndes County for sending assistance.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that fire, some miners from Alabama bought up land southeast of the Swamp. Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, of Birmingham, AL, applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to strip mine titanium less than three miles from the Swamp.

After more than 20,000 public comments, the miners Continue reading