Tag Archives: GA EPD

Valdosta Elsa spills finally in GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report 2021-07-20

Update 2021-07-23: Bad Upstream, Good Downstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-22.

Not just two, but seven Valdosta July 7th sewage spills finally showed up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report yesterday.

That’s ten working days later, or almost two calendar weeks after they happened during Tropical Storm Elsa. Even Quitman is usually only one week late filing such reports.

However, unlike the vague “800 block” verbiage in Valdosta’s press release of July 8th, these reports have precise street addresses.

And these reports say which waterbody was affected. The “800 Block of E Brookwood Dr.”, from which I could not tell whether it went west into Onemile Branch, Sugar Creek, and the Withlacoochee River, turns out to be “836 E. Brookwood Dr”, and it went into “Knights Creek”, which runs into Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.

So I’ll go back and revise our WWALS map. Maybe from now on Valdosta will report spills with this kind of precision and save everybody trouble.

[Seven Valdosta Spills, GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report parsed by WWALS]
Seven Valdosta Spills, GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report parsed by WWALS, see the WWALS website.

Also maybe Valdosta will finally do something to Continue reading

Twin Pines Minerals supplied more documents to GA-EPD about mining near Okefenokee Swamp 2021-06-25

The miners finally responded to GA-EPD’s questions from April about more information for the five permit applications to strip mine titanium far too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

Checking today with Georgia Environmental Protection Division Deputy Director John Eunice, it will probably take several weeks for EPD’s Mining group to review the documents. If EPD finds documents or information still missing, they may ask Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, for more. When at some point EPD finds enough information to call it a complete application, they will announce a Public Hearing with a public comment period.

You can go ahead and ask GA-EPD to reject the permit applications, or at least thoroughly evaluate them:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/help-suwannee-riverkeeper-save-okefenokee-swamp/

The miners’ recent documents contain plenty of reasons to reject the permits, including they say themselves they didn’t answer all the questions, and they keep sending maps including land owned by TIAA as part of their mine site after TIAA rejected that many months ago.

[Upon completion; Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee and St Marys Rivers; TIAA land still in mining site maps]
Upon completion; Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee and St Marys Rivers; TIAA land still in mining site maps

I’d say the miners themselves said their responses were incomplete in items 5 and 6 on page 12 of their Response to Comments: Continue reading

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

WWALS Watershed Coalition thanks Atkinson Commission for support –WFXL TV 2021-07-09

Alapaha River Water Trail and GA-EPD Recreational redesignation of the Alapaha River at Atkinson County Commission last Thursday made the news.

Typhani Gray, Fox 31 WFXL, 9 July 2021, WWALS Watershed Coalition thanks Atkinson Commission for support,

[Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, Alapaha River Water Trail, Suwannee Riverkeeper at Atkinson County Commission, Reporter Typhani Gray and Tester Valerie Folsom, ARWT road sign]
Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, Alapaha River Water Trail, Suwannee Riverkeeper at Atkinson County Commission, Reporter Typhani Gray and Tester Valerie Folsom, ARWT road sign

WWALS Watershed Coalition was started after organizers were concerned about sewage spills, and roads being closed because of trees being down in the river.

Most of that was in the Withlacoochee River around 2009, but the Alapaha River did have water quality issues back then.

The organization came to the Atkinson County Board of Commissioners to thank them for the Alapaha River Water Trail contribution.

In 2018 commissions passed a resolution supporting the water trail.

Here is that Atkinson County Commission resolution of 18 January 2018 supporting the Alapaha River Water Trail.

This trail runs for more than 100 miles on the Alapaha River all the way down to Florida.

Atkinson County has one landing on Georgia 135 that’s called Willacoochee [Landing].

According to John Quarterman, the Watershed Coalition has expanded its organization and is now tests waters to make it safer for people to swim and fish.

Valerie Folsom, who tests in Atkinson County at Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135, also spoke to the Atkinson County Commission about the latest test results. 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

Detail of Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA * 8, Starke, FL * 6, 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-09: Bad Elsa aftermath, water quality, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-08.

The Valdosta spills actually add up to 90,300 gallons of raw sewage from seven locations, mostly in the Withlacoochee River Basin, but one into the Alapaha River Basin. Or more spills, since we have a report of one more that the city limed but did not include in its list of spills.

The Starke spills apparently came from six locations, probably adding up to 45,000 gallons of raw sewage, all uphill from Alligator Creek 00277787, above Lake Rowell, Lake Sampson, Sampson River, Santa Fe River.

[Valdosta spills, Starke spills and mines]
Valdosta spills, Starke spills and mines during Tropical Storm Elsa 2021-07-07

Still, the good news is that there were no spills from Valdosta’s two wastewater treatment plants, and the new WWTP catch basin is only half full (so far). Plus, the Mayor of Valdosta called to let us know about these spills. And he says the notorious Wainwright Drive manhole on Onemile Branch is finally getting some attention. Oh, and for once there was no spills reported on Mildred Street.

See also the previous WWALS blog post.

Valdosta Spills

Here is the Valdosta Press Release about their spills. I have added which [waterbody] the spill was on or uphill from. GA-EPD still has not posted Valdosta’s spill reports in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

The WWALS maps show where the spills were, as near as I could read the tea leaves of Valdosta’s vague “200 block” location reporting. They know the exact latitude and longitude of the affected manholes. Why don’t they include that?

Note that Valdosta’s list does not include a spill that Valdosta limed, between Continue reading

Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA, Starke, FL 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-09: Detail of Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA * 8, Starke, FL * 6, 2021-07-08

Two cities spilled sewage during Tropical Storm Elsa: Starke, Florida, and Valdosta, Georgia.

The good news: there were no spills from Valdosta’s two wastewater treatment plants, and the new WWTP catch basin is only half full (so far). Plus, the Mayor of Valdosta called to let us know about these spills.

The bad news: Valdosta spilled 89,980 gallons of raw sewage from at least six manholes, and Starke spilled probably 40,000 gallons or more from at least six locations. At least one of the Valdosta spills was from a repeated spill offender we have complained about many times: Wainwright Drive on Onemile Branch.

[Closed manhole at 1208 Wainwright Drive]
Closed manhole at 1208 Wainwright Drive

The other Valdosta spills apparently went into either Twomile Branch or Sugar Creek upstream from the Withlacoochee River, and two possibly into creeks in the Alapaha River Basin. Can’t tell without more precise locations.

A press release is expected soon from Valdosta. I will probably follow up with that and which waterways were affected. Maybe GA-EPD will post Valdosta’s spill reports in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

The Starke spills were all into or near Alligator Creek 00277787, into Lake Rowell, Lake Sampson, Sampson River, Santa Fe River.

Valdosta Spills

Thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for forwarding this message from Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber: Continue reading

Clean Rivers after Tuesday blip and before Thursday rains 2021-07-01

Update 2021-07-06: Bad Upstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-02.

The Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers are remarkably clean by samples Thursday, July 1, 2021. No sewage spills have been reported for Georgia.

Some bad news: something caused high E. coli in the Withlacoochee River at GA 133 on Tuesday. And Starke, Florida, had two more small spills above the Santa Fe River, but nothing like the big one that Florida city had a week ago.

The good news: according to those Tuesday tests, whatever was in the Withlacoochee River at GA 133 was not coming from Valdosta’s Mulch Yard off of Val-Tech Road. And by Thursday samples, whatever it was was gone by then.

So by the results we have right now, it’s clear for swimming, diving, fishing, and boating.

And still more good news: Madison Health has lifted its former Bacterial Advisory for the Withlacoochee River.

But beware: many inches of rain fell later Thursday and today. That usually washes more contamination into the rivers. See Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27 https://wwals.net/?p=55966

[Chart, rivers, results, Swim Guide]
Chart, rivers, results, Swim Guide

Just don’t say we didn’t mention those rains yesterday and today, which in Brooks County started even earlier, and have been very heavy. If we’re all lucky, most of what manure would wash off has already washed off. We shall see.

With a dozen tests this week, we’re burning through testing materials. Thanks to Joe Brownlee, Southwest Director, Georgia Power, for another generous water quality testing grant that helps make this possible. Continue reading

Upgrade Suwannee River Basin rivers to Recreational –WWALS to GA-EPD 2021-06-30

There are a couple of new things in what I sent on the deadline day, yesterday. (PDF)

  1. Funds are now available to buy the private land at the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River, which was the main impediment to plans for the Troupville River Camp and Troupville River Park.
  2. Stakeholders in the One Valdosta-Lowndes initiative met and decided their number one community and economic development priority is: Troupville River Camp.

For what this is all about, see Calling for pictures of swimming, diving, rapids, tubing, water skiing, or surfing, Suwannee River Basin, Georgia.

[Rivers, Letter]
Rivers, Letter


June 30, 2021

To: EPD.Comments@dnr.ga.gov
Elizabeth Booth, Environmental Protection Division
Watershed Protection Branch,
Watershed Planning & Monitoring Program,
Suite 1152 East, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr., Atlanta, GA 30334

Re: Georgia Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards

Dear Ms. Booth,

Once again I would like to commend you and all the GA-EPD staff for your diligence in this Triennial Review process. I thank you for your consideration of the request by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) to upgrade GA EPD’s designated use of the Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Suwannee Rivers, as well as Grand Bay WMA, Banks Lake NWR, and the Okefenokee NWR, from Fishing to Recreational, to set higher water quality standards for these bodies of water.

In the interests of saving you and me time, I will try to merely summarize the arguments I have already made, while adding some material you may not have previously seen.

Year-Round

As you know WWALS would prefer that redesignation applied uniformly, year-round. As you mentioned in the recent EPD zoom meeting on this subject, perhaps one reason Florida has all its rivers as Recreational by default is its climate. South Georgia, like north Florida (and unlike north Georgia) has a subtropical climate in which we are not surprised by 80-degree weather in January. People swim, dive, fish, and boat on our rivers year-round. Some people even prefer to be on and in the water in the winter because there are fewer insects. I have recently been reminded that local churches also use them for immersion baptisms, which can happen in any season of the year.

Recreational Data Spreadsheet

Per request of EPD, please find attached a Recreational Data Spreadsheet, which is also online here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1g9gLcNnbRx4H9djZAlKd1ZaB7zrlmDbz/view?usp=sharing

In that spreadsheet are examples of swimming and diving locations, including almost every boat ramp or landing, plus selected sandbars, beaches, and springs. Also included are a few examples of rapids. None of them are Class III, but at least two are Class II+, and as Gwyneth Moody pointed out on the recent zoom, people frequently capsize in those.

Included for every location in that spreadsheet is a link to further information, mostly to one of our three river trails (“blue trails”):

Continue reading

Calling for pictures of swimming, diving, rapids, tubing, water skiing, or surfing, Suwannee River Basin, Georgia

Update 2021-06-21: The real deadline is June 30, 2021.

Calling for pictures, personal experience, or other evidence of swimming or diving in lakes and rivers in the Suwannee River Basin, and evidence of investments in recreation.

[Candidate Recreational waterways, Georgia, legend, Suwannee River Basin]
Candidate Recreational waterways, Georgia, legend, Suwannee River Basin

For a waterway to be redesignated Recreational instead of Fishing, as we requested back in 2019, GA-EPD requires evidence of “Primary Contact Recreation,” which it says is “full immersion contact with water where there is significant risk of ingestion that includes, but is not limited to, swimming, diving, white water boating (class 3+), tubing, water skiing, and surfing.”

Recreational designation would mean tighter restrictions on contamination limits. That should be good for fish, fishing, people who swim, fish, and boat, and for eco-tourism.

Could everyone who has pictures, news reports, or other solid evidence of such activities in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia please send them in. That’s in the Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, Alapaha River, Banks Lake, Grand Bay, Withlacoochee River, or Little River.

Please use this form:
https://forms.gle/DipPgU2TP5atc2Rf9
If you have difficulties with that, please email them to wwalswatershed@gmail.com.

Also, please send any evidence of investments in recreation along any of these waterways, with dollar amounts, if you have them.

No rush. We thought we had until the end of June, but recently GA-EPD truncated the deadline to May 28th. That’s Friday of this week. GA-EPD has indicated that the end-of-week deadline may be flexible, but please send what you’ve got as fast as you can.

They also applied a bunch of criteria, some of which we were previously unaware of, and tossed out many stretches of the rivers. We asked for an appeal process, but they have not provided one. So feel free to send in pictures and other evidence about all stretches, and we’ll see what we can do with them.

The good news is that still on the candidate list for Recreational redesignation is all of the Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee River in Georgia, Banks Lake, and Grand Bay Creek and Trail within the Grand Bay WMA. Also included is most of the Alapaha River within the Alapaha River Water Trail, but not upstream from the Willacoochee River, and not for ten miles downstream from Lakeland.

But almost all of the Withlacoochee River is eliminated, except for Tiger Creek (at Spook Bridge) to the state line, and all of the Little River is eliminated. Also gone is Lake Irma, because Continue reading