Tag Archives: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Clean Withlacoochee and Santa Fe Rivers plus High Springs sewage spill 2024-05-30

Update 2024-06-07: Filthy Franks Creek, clean Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers, despite Ashburn spill 2024-06-05.

Update 2024-06-05: A Georgia City Has Spilled Millions of Gallons of Raw Sewage Into 2 Pristine Rivers –Amber Nolan, greenmatters 2024-06-03.

With no rain since Monday, the Withlacoochee River tested clean Wednesday, and the Santa Fe River Thursay, even though High Springs, Florida had a sewage spill Thursday; see below.

Three spills appeared in the Georgia EPD Sewage Spills Report for this Tuesday, May 22, 2024: a big one and a little one from Ashburn Saturday and Sunday a week ago, and a tiny one from Quitman Wednesday a week ago; see separate report. https://wwals.net/?p=64971

There’s a slight chance of rain Sunday, but probably not enough to cause much contamination.

Happy swimming, boating, and fishing this weekend if you can find a river that is not too high.

Or come see us 2-7 PM Saturday in Hahira, Georgia, with South Georgia Pride at Music and Art on Main.

[Clean Withlacoochee and Santa Fe Rivers; High Springs Sewage Spill 2024-05-30]
Clean Withlacoochee and Santa Fe Rivers; High Springs Sewage Spill 2024-05-30

The High Springs spill was reported in the Pollution Spills Report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The report says 35,000 gallons were spilled, but 32,000 gallons were recovered, so the remainder was only 3,000 gallons.

The location is rather vague, Southwest 25th Avenue, so I’m guessing it was at the wastewater treatment plant. Continue reading

What progress has been made towards springs nitrogen loading reduction by the Suwannee River BMAP? 2024-05-24

Update 2024-05-25: The Santa Fe River BMAP session was no more informative.

If my car has an oil leak and I take it to the dealer, I want to know has it stopped leaking, or at least when will it be fixed so it doesn’t leak, and how far along is it to being fixed. I don’t want to hear a precise torque wrench reading, which nut the wrench turned, etc., at least not until after I’ve heard the progress report.

But FDEP tells us about all the nuts and bolts, makes and models, projects and documents, without ever telling us what have the BMAPs accomplished, compared to their stated goals of reducing nitrogen loadings in springs.

[Suwannee BMAP meeting, what progress? 2024-05-24, vs. 2017-04-13 BMAPs and FDEP 2022 Statewide Annual Report]
Suwannee BMAP meeting, what progress? 2024-05-24, vs. 2017-04-13 BMAPs and FDEP 2022 Statewide Annual Report

I don’t doubt that it’s a great tool and those using it are qualified and hardworking, the Nitrogen Source Inventory Loading Tool (NSILT) and other tools used in the BMAPs. But they are tools, not the goal. I first want to know progress towards the goal.

After an hour of today’s online public meeting about the Suwannee River Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), I asked via the questions option:

11:16 AM Me to Staff Continue reading

Suwannee and Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) meetings 2024-05-24

Update 2024-05-24: What progress has been made towards springs nitrogen loading reduction by the Suwannee River BMAP? 2024-05-24.

SRWMD is holding two meetings about springs protection on Friday, May 24, 2024, at 10AM for the Suwannee River Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), and at 1:30 PM for its Santa Fe River BMAP.

[SRWMD BMAP meetings, Online May 24, 2024, Suwannee River Basin 10 AM, Santa Fe River Basin 1:30 PM]
SRWMD BMAP meetings, Online May 24, 2024, Suwannee River Basin 10 AM, Santa Fe River Basin 1:30 PM

Everybody knows the main problem and the cause: nitrates from fertilizer leaching through the soil and causing algae blooms in springs such as Madison Blue Spring and Gilchrist Blue Spring, because of too much fertilizer and irrigation using Floridan Aquifer withdrawals.

Nothing much has changed since this article was published in 2018: State geologist Greenhalgh says BMPs don’t work to solve BMAPs. The BMAPs use the same Best Management Practices (BMPs) that were already in use for the previous decades, during which the problem got worse. There is little reason to believe those BMPs alone will improve the situation.

To affect these BMAPs, it’s going to take more than just people showing up or even experts providing opinions. Grasstops are needed: people who can influence the decision makers, both inside SRWMD and FDEP, and elected statewide officials.

But a good first step is for people to show up or send letters of comment. Continue reading

High Springs, FL, 1,500-gallon sewage spill, NE Railroad Ave 2024-04-24

High Springs, Florida had a 1,500-gallon sewage spill from about midnight, Wednesday, April 24, until 7AM the same day. It was far from the Santa Fe River and probably had no effect on the river.

Incident Description: Bypass ball valve in discharge pipe vault union separated and pumped out from there. Residents in area mentioned smelling something around midnight the previous night but never reported it till maintenance showed up at 0700 and called us to report it. We were able to shut the pumps off and close a valve after the vault to isolate the station.”

Clean-up Actions: Applied lime, Signs posted”

[High Springs 1,500-gallon, Sewage Spill 2024-04-24, 23301 NW 186th Ave., aka NE Railroad Ave.]
High Springs 1,500-gallon, Sewage Spill 2024-04-24, 23301 NW 186th Ave., aka NE Railroad Ave.

The address given was 23301 NW 186th Ave, High Springs, FL 32643, with coordinates 29.82482649, -82.59387311.

Google Maps says that is on NE Railroad Ave. at Plantation Oaks Assisted Living and Memory Care, near US 27. Continue reading

Valdosta sewage on Madison County Commission agenda 2024-04-24

It’s the last item, under NEW BUSINESS:

  1. Discussion Regarding Valdosta Sewage Spill and Compliance with Consent Order — Commissioner Waldrep.

That’s at the Madison County Commission Regular Meeting, Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at 6:00 PM in the Courthouse Annex, 229 SW Pinckney St., Room 107, Madison, Florida.

[Valdosta sewage at Madison County Commission, Commissioner Donnie Waldrep 2024-04-24]
Valdosta sewage at Madison County Commission, Commissioner Donnie Waldrep 2024-04-24

According to Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson just now, “Wastewater, Engineering and City Manager meeting is 9:15 Tuesday morning to discuss increased capacity options.”

I asked if the public is invited. He answered, “No, I will report results to you….”

Valdosta is working hard on upgrading its dilapidated sewer system infrastructure, using local taxes and a Georgia state loan. They’ve spent more than $100 million dollars already.

Valdosta was pretty timely in telling the public about its nine other recent sewage spills.

But Continue reading

Madison County, Florida, Health advisory for Withlacoochee River about Valdosta sewage spill 2024-04-17

Update 2024-04-18: Dirty creeks, but clean rivers 2024-04-17.

Update 2024-04-18: Updates on Homerville, Quitman, Tifton, and Valdosta in GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report 2024-04-11.

It’s been a long time since the last Health Advisory from the Madison County, Florida, Health Department.

But Valdosta took the risk of guessing how big to make its sewage catch basin, and found out last weekend it was too small.

[Valdosta sewage spill gets Madison Health Advisory 2024-04-17; 1.67 million gallons into Withlacoochee River 2024-04-12]
Valdosta sewage spill gets Madison Health Advisory 2024-04-17; 1.67 million gallons into Withlacoochee River 2024-04-12

WWALS has already been testing the waters. Results soon.

And now FDEP and SRWMD are joining in with Madison DOH.

Received this afternoon.

DOH-MADISON ISSUES HEALTH ADVISORY NEAR WITHLACOOCHEE RIVER

Contact:
Lisa Hayes
Lisa. Hayes@flhealth.gov
850-879-0683

Madison, Fla.— The Florida Department of Health in Madison County (DOH-Madison) has issued a health advisory to residents and visitors near the Withlacoochee River in North Florida due to a wastewater overflow in the City of Valdosta, Georgia, from a recent weather event with excessive rain amounts. Drinking water is not affected by this advisory.

Continue reading

Huge win for Waterkeepers: Court stops FDEP assumption of water permitting, and countersuit 2024-02-15

In a rare huge win for conservationists, on February 15, 2024, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Miami Waterkeeper, and co-plaintiffs won their case to stop the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) from assuming wetlands permitting.

[Florida panther, Waterkeepers Florida]
Florida panther, Waterkeepers Florida

FDEP assumption was always a bad idea. “The toxic algae blooms that now plague Florida are a direct result of the state’s decades-long failure to protect our waterways from wildlife-choking pollution,” Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Now the state wants to make it even easier to dredge and fill wetlands that help filter these pollutants.”

Here’s the original lawsuit.

Jim Saunders, WUSF & News Service of Florida, February 19, 2024, A judge sides with environmentalists in wetlands permitting shift,

In a win for environmental groups, a U.S. district judge Thursday ruled that federal officials did not follow required steps in 2020 before shifting permitting authority to Florida for projects that affect wetlands.

Washington, D.C.-based Judge Randolph Moss, in a 97-page decision, found that actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the Endangered Species Act. Moss vacated the approval of the shift to the state.

Continue reading

Hamilton County, Florida, resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp, against the strip mine 2024-02-20

Update 2024-04-07: Added names of County Commissioners in the form as passed.

Update 2024-03-16: Atkinson County, GA, resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp against the strip mine 2024-03-14.

County opposition to the proposed strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp has crossed the GA-FL line.

The Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County, Florida, on February 20, 2024, passed this resolution. A signed copy is forthcoming.

[Hamilton County, Florida, resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp, against the strip mine 2024-02-20]
Hamilton County, Florida, resolution for the Okefenokee Swamp, against the strip mine 2024-02-20

That makes four counties on the Suwannee River downstream of the Okefenokee Swamp: Ware, Clinch, Echols, and Hamilton.

Plus many other counties and cities.
https://wwals.net/2021/12/10/resolutions-for-okefenokee-swamp-against-strip-mine-suwannee-riverkeeper-sgrc-2021-12-09/

Resolution 2024-

A RESOLUTION FOR THE OKEFENOKEE SWAMP AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, HAMILTON COUNTY, FLORIDA

WHEREAS, Hamilton County takes pride in its rivers, including the Suwannee River to the east and south;

WHEREAS, the citizens of Hamilton County value the natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities afforded by the Okefenokee Swamp and the Suwannee River and their watersheds;

WHEREAS, the Okefenokee Swamp is a unique natural, cultural, and economic treasure known worldwide, identified as an Aquatic Resource of National Importance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a National Natural Landmark, a National Wilderness Area, and a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention;

WHEREAS, the Okefenokee Swamp is the headwaters of the St Marys River and of the Suwannee River, famous worldwide;

WHEREAS, the Suwannee River forms the eastern and southern boundaries of Hamilton County for more than eighty miles;

WHEREAS, Hamilton County hosts several Suwannee River access points, demonstrating commitment to recreation on the Suwannee River through various initiatives;

WHEREAS, the Hamilton County Commission has shown commitment to water quality and waterway recreation through the approval of the Comprehensive Plan, providing protections for the Suwannee River and its watersheds;

WHEREAS, the citizens value the Okefenokee Swamp and the Suwannee River for water quality and habitat protection;

WHEREAS, the environmental impact of strip mining in proximity to the Okefenokee Swamp raises significant concerns for the watershed;

WHEREAS, thorough and unbiased review processes are crucial in assessing the potential environmental consequences of mining activities;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners:

  1. Support the preservation and protection of the Okefenokee Swamp and its surrounding watersheds.
  2. Advocate for a comprehensive, transparent, and impartial review of any proposed mining activities near the Okefenokee Swamp, including public hearings, public comments, and independent third-party review.
  3. Encourage the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to thoroughly review and assess all mining permit applications to the same degree as a thorough U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Area-Wide Environmental Impact Statement, with public hearings, public comments, and independent third-party review.
  4. Advocate for legislative measures in Georgia to prevent future strip mines near environmentally sensitive areas, including the Okefenokee Swamp and the blackwater rivers in the Suwannee River Basin.
  5. Request the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to engage with the permitting process of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to ensure thorough consideration of environmental impacts.

PASSED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, Hamilton County, Florida, this day of 2024.

BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
HAMILTON COUNTY, FLORIDA

Attest:

 
Greg Godwin
Ex-officio Clerk

By
Chairman, Robert E. Brown
District 3

Member, Jimmy Murphy
District 1

Member, Robby Roberson
District 2

Member, Travis Erixton
District 4

Member, Richie McCoy
District 5

Approved as to Form By:

Andrew J. Decker, III
Hamilton County Attorney

 -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!
https://wwals.net/donations/

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

Clean Santa Fe and Withlacoochee Rivers 2024-02-01

Update 2024-02-09: Three clean rivers 2024-02-07.

We got good results for Wednesday the Withlacoochee and Santa Fe Rivers. Valdosta’s Wednesday upstream Withlacoochee River results concur.

There is prediction of rain on Sunday, but you can get on the water before then.

So happy fishing, paddling, and swimming this weekend.

Or join us today (Saturday) for Finish: Langdale Park to Sugar Creek Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River, 2024-02-03.

[Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-02-01]
Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-02-01

Sewage Spills

For once, there were more spills in Florida than in Georgia, although not all were sewage.

One sewage spill was reported in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia for last Friday, from Quitman. It first appeared in the Monday, January 29, 2024, GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report, with little detail. Continue reading