Tag Archives: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

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

Bad Elsa aftermath, water quality, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-08

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

Update: 2021-07-12: No Valdosta City repair work at chronic sewage spill manhole, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch 2021-07-08.

Tropical Storm Elsa washed E. coli into the Withlacoochee River, according to WWALS test results for Thursday, July 8, 2021.

Some of it probably came from Valdosta’s more than half a dozen sewage spills. But that wasn’t the only source, since WWALS found bad water quality starting at Hagan Bridge @ GA 122 and US 41, well upstream from Sugar Creek. Hagan Bridge is even upstream of Cat Creek, through which Moody Air Force Base’s Beatty Branch spill would reach the Withlacoochee. So some of this is probably more of the usual cattle, hog, horse, etc. manure being washed into the river. However, WWALS found much worse water quality at GA 133, downstream of Sugar Creek. So possibly Valdosta’s 45,532 gallons of raw sewage into Twomile Branch and 44,448 gallons into Onemile Branch, which both flush through Sugar Creek, had some ill effect on the Withlacoochee River.

For Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps, Valdosta’s own results for Wednesday already showed too much E. coli, and the WWALS results for Thursday at Nankin and State Line were no better. WWALS did get acceptable results at Cleary Bluff, downstream of Allen Ramp, but that may be just because the contamination had not washed down there yet.

[Bad Chart, Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha Rivers, Swim Guide]
Bad Chart, Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha Rivers, Swim Guide

For the Little River, WWALS got too-high E. coli at Troupville Boat Ramp, but acceptable upstream at Folsom Bridge Landing @ GA 122.

For the Alapaha River, results were good at Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135 Wednesday, and acceptable at Lakeland Boat Ramp @ GA 122 Thursday. We have no data downstream of where the 320 gallons of Valdosta sewage on MLK Drive might have flushed down Duke Bay Canal, Mud Swamp Creek, and the Alapahoochee River into the Alapaha River just upstream of Sasser Landing, but that was a very small amount.

So if you want to boat this weekend, I’d recommend the Alapaha River or upstream on the Little River, but not the Withlacoochee River.

We have no Santa Fe River water quality data downstream of Starke, Florida’s, half dozen sewage spills. 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

GA 376 Alapahoochee River Bridge to be replaced 2021-05-10

There was quite a bit of advance notice that the bridge that provides the most upstream paddling access to the Alapahoochee River is being replaced, and now the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) has given public notice of a variance for a contractor to replace the bridge according to specifications by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and Echols County, Georgia.

[Notice, GA 136 Alapahoochee River Bridge in Lanier County News]
Notice, GA 136 Alapahoochee River Bridge in Lanier County News

This bridge is on the WWALS map of the Alapaha River Water Trail. Continue reading

Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09

Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s positive answer to Suwannee Riverkeeper’s question about the Okefenokee Swamp was covered by the local newspaper of record.

[VDT, Ossoff, Warnock]
VDT, Ossoff, Warnock

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 6 May 2021, Ossoff: Millions for S.Ga. schools,

During Ossoff’s visit, Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman asked about the proposed heavy mineral sands mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge is the largest east of the Mississippi and carries a hefty amount of wildlife biodiversity. The mine could potentially impact the refuge’s native species, basin hydrology and overall integrity.

Continue reading

Senator Jon Ossoff: Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource 2021-05-06

Update 2021-05-09: Coverage in the local newspaper of record, Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09.

“The Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource. It is a wildlife refuge that must be protected,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, responding to a question by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, today, in Valdosta, Georgia.

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert, to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Valdosta on demand, City Hall, Senator Jon Ossoff on Okefenokee, Valdosta Mayor, Council, Staff, Sen. Ossoff]
Valdosta on demand, City Hall, Senator Jon Ossoff on Okefenokee, Valdosta Mayor, Council, Staff, Sen. Ossoff

Here is the WWALS video: Continue reading

Chemours: new Florida mine, what about next to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia? 2021-04-23

On the same day the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) filed a notice of intent to issue a permit for a new titanium mine on Trail Ridge in Bradford County, Florida, the Sierra Club posted an action alert for people to ask what does Chemours intend to do about the Twin Pines Minerals mining application within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp in Charlton County, Georgia?

You can use the Sierra Club Action to ask Chemours to disavow any interest in that Twin Pines Minerals mine or site.
https://act.sierraclub.org/actions/Georgia?actionId=AR0326624

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp welcomed yet another Chemours mine to Georgia just last fall, yet the day before these two events he refused to state an opinion on the proposed mine next to the Okefenokee Swamp. You can ask him to speak up against it, by using the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert, which will send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) and Georgia elected officials asking them to reject the permit applications for that site.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Map of mines on Trail Ridge, Twin Pines Minerals, Chemours]
Map of mines on Trail Ridge, Twin Pines Minerals, Chemours

The Twin Pines Minerals proposed mine site is in the middle right of this map, barely southeast of the Swamp, south of Chemours Mission Mine North and Mission Mine South in Georgia, and north of a string of Chemours mines in north Florida, with the new Chemours Trail Ridge South Mine indicated at the bottom end of that row.

Why would Chemours not be interested in a mine in the middle of Trail Ridge, where Twin Pines Minerals has said the mining is the most convenient? Continue reading

Four U.S. Senators ask U.S. FWS to assist GA-EPD against mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-04-28

“Georgia’s senators want the federal government to get involved in the state’s review of a mine proposed at the doorstep of the East Coast’s largest wildlife refuge.”, James Marshall, E&E News, 30 April 2021, Senators worry about mine project near Okefenokee.

And you can still use the Waterkeeper Alliance action alert to Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp by sending a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division asking them to reject Twin Pines Minerals’ five permit applications, or at least to go through a full process to review them:
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures]
Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock also got Senators Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Tom Carper from Delaware to co-sign their letter of Wednesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s good they’re doing what many of us asked all the candidates to do in the Georgia Senate race last year.

Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 29 April 2021, U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff urge scrutiny of Okefenokee mining proposal.

The economy was on Warnock’s mind last week when he released a statement about the mining near the Okefenokee.

“I am a fierce champion for strengthening rural economies, and finding ways to ensure rural Georgians don’t just survive, but thrive,” he wrote. “At the same time, the Okefenokee is integral to the local ecology and economy, and we owe it to our planet and the communities that depend on the swamp to ensure its health and integrity for future generations. As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, I look forward to working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and engaging their expertise in these on-going conversations to make sure we protect this cherished Georgia landmark as we work to bring more good-paying jobs to our rural communities.”

Well, that’s good to hear. I look forward to the local Chambers and all the organizations concerned about the Swamp finding some businesses for Charlton County and other rural south Georgia and north Florida counties.

The Letter (PDF)

Continue reading

Health alert for Withlacoochee River 2021-04-27

Update 2021-04-30: Much cleaner: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-29.

Received 4:17 PM yesterday, April 28, 2021: “The Florida Department of Health in Hamilton and Madison counties have issued a health alert for the Withlacoochee River, April 28, 2021.”

[Bad State Line to FL 6, Swim Guide red, Health alert]
Bad State Line to FL 6, Swim Guide red, Health alert

That was after FDEP published the Madison Health downstream results for Tuesday, which, while not as bad as the WWALS results for Monday, were still above the 410 colony-forming units per 100 mililiter (cfu/100 mL) limit for of E. coli in a single sample.

The cause? Very likely agriculture, as in cattle manure, maybe horses, likely some wild hogs, plus cats, dogs, chickens, deer, and sheep. No, it’s almost certainly not the tiny and mostly-vacuumed Valdosta FOG Manhole sewage spill of Monday. Don’t be surprised if spills from elsewhere start showing up last on the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. But those still probably won’t be the main problem, given how widespread the contamination is.

The good news is still that Continue reading