Tag Archives: Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

New Valdosta Directors of Utilities and Public Works 2024-07-01

Congratulations to Jason Barnes on being promoted to Valdosta Director of Utilities after a year as Acting Director.

He has a lot of work left for him by previous city administrations, both in drinking water quality and a planned new well site, and of course in fixing Valdosta’s chronic sewer leaks, overflows, and spills, while expanding the sewer system to accomodate new industry.

[Jason Barnes, Valdosta, Utilities Director 2024-07-01, Water and sewer systems, Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers]
Jason Barnes, Valdosta, Utilities Director 2024-07-01, Water and sewer systems, Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers

The Withlacoochee River gets the most news, because most of Valdosta’s spills have been into creeks that flow into that river. But the collapsed sewer main next to Knights Creek ends up in Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River. The city seems to have finally gotten a handle on that one, having replaced most of that sewer main, with the rest to be scheduled as regular repairs instead of expensive emergency fixes.

Nobody is going to be happy until there are no more spills, but I have seen fewer spills that did not last as long since Jason Barnes has been in charge.

About the first thing I heard from him once he became Acting Director was that a sewage spill had contaminated Sugar Creek, so we rerouted from a boating cleanup to an onland cleanup. Jason Barnes showed up in person at that cleanup, where we thanked him for telling us. Continue reading

Valdosta Standard Operating Procedures as conditions on Consent Order EPD-WP-9424 2023-11-13

Update 2023-11-14: Scotti and Sara Jay discovered One Mile Branch fish kill, leading to GA-EPD Consent Order 2023-09-22.

Valdosta has sent GA-EPD a check for the $56,139.30 fine and the information required by the other four conditions of the September 15, 2023, Consent Order on Valdosta for the One Mile Branch fish kill and various sewage spills.

Maybe these Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will help further reduce Valdosta sewage into creeks and the Alapaha, Alapahoochee, and Withlacoochee Rivers.

[SOPs]
SOPs

Here is the City of Valdosta’s summary of its responses to the conditions in the Consent Order. I haved added links to the referenced documents. Continue reading

GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta for One Mile Branch fish kill and sewage spills 2023-09-15

Update 2023-11-13: Valdosta Standard Operating Procedures as conditions on Consent Order EPD-WP-9424 2023-11-13.

That One Mile Branch fish kill back on September 23, 2022, was not just from a fuel spill by VSU.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) found contamination and dead fish upstream of that alleged fuel spill. GA-EPD also cited numerous other Valdosta sewage spills, not only into One Mile Branch, but also into Hightower Creek (also draining through Sugar Creek into the Withlacoochee River), and spillsinto Knights Creek (which drains into Mud Swamp Creek, then the Alaphoochee River, and the Alapaha River).

Result? A new Consent Order on Valdosta, including a hefty fine as one of five conditions, the rest of which have sixty (60) day deadlines.

[$56,139.30 fine on Valdosta for One Mile Branch Fish Kill and other spills --GA-EPD 2023-09-15]
$56,139.30 fine on Valdosta for One Mile Branch Fish Kill and other spills –GA-EPD 2023-09-15

$56,139.30 may not sound like much as a fine, but it is huge compared to typical GA-EPD fines of maybe $10,000, and it is almost half of the $122,000 of the 2020 Consent Order after the huge December 2019 Valdosta sewage spill.

Please note that the Valdosta Utilities Department is under new management since all this happened.

Acting Utilities Manager Jason Barnes now has the task of cleaning up the physical and regulatory mess, even though he had nothing to do with causing it.

The City’s explanation for the One Mile Branch fish kill at the time did not pass muster with GA-EPD: Continue reading

Valdosta holds ground-breaking on WWTP catch basin 2020-07-21

Long-awaited, since December 2018, with GA-EPD permit in hand since December 2019, today was the groundbreaking for the new catch basin at the entrance to Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

[Ground breaking]
Photo: City of Valdosta, Ground breaking

The catch basin probably would have stopped 2/3 of the December 2018 spills. *The other 1/3 in December 2018 was from city infrastructure not acting as designed, unless 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilling from manholes was in that design.

It would not have done anything to stop the record December 2019 raw sewage spill, which resulted from the Remer Lane Pump Station being left offline and disconnected from the SCADA system.

However, some of the other projects mentioned in the below Valdosta press release may help with both those 2018 and 2019 other problems. It’s good to see Valdosta moving ahead to fix its chronic sewer system infrastructure problems.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2020
Release #07-21-104

City Breaks Ground on 7.26 Million-Gallon Equalization Basin at Withlacoochee WWTP

On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, The City of Valdosta broke ground on the new Equalization (EG) Basin located at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The new secondary basin will provide more than double the available storage for extended periods of operation at the peak hourly flow thereby reducing the potential for overflows at the Plant. The Project includes a lined 7.26 MG excavated Basin, a new pump station, and an associated gravity pipe and force main.

Since its start-up in 2016, Continue reading

Send your comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order –Albany Herald

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

Update 2023-11-09: GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta for One Mile Branch fish kill and sewage spills 2023-09-15.

In the Albany Herald, May 9, 2020, Deadline set to comment on Valdosta EPD Enforcement Order,

The Enforcement Order includes a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., who was among the WWALS members who met with the city of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The rest of the article is from the WWALS press release.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

This is not the kind of black water we want:

[Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River.]
Photo 4: Confluence of Sugar Creek and Withlacoochee River. By Tim Bonvechio.

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order Continue reading

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

Update 2023-11-09: GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta for One Mile Branch fish kill and sewage spills 2023-09-15.

Update 2020-05-10: Send your comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order –Albany Herald.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also PDF)

Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order

Hahira, GA, May 4, 2020 — May 27th is the deadline to comment on the Enforcement Order the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) finally issued on Valdosta for sewage spills. For decades, Valdosta has spilled wastewater into the Withlacoochee River. People downstream, even on the Suwannee River all the way to the Gulf, worry about fishing, swimming, or even boating and some even say their wells are contaminated by fecal bacteria from these spills. Many had hoped that Valdosta’s big spills were over in 2016 with the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant uphill out of the flood plain, plus a Force Main with two Pump Stations. Valdosta says it has spent about $80 million on water system improvements. Yet the spills continued. The Order also reveals a massive fish kill.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

“The December 2019 spill was the biggest yet, with no rain, and nothing actually broke. It was a massive failure of supervision,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Citizens and elected and appointed officials in Georgia and a dozen counties in Florida demanded something be done.”

This Enforcement Order includes the most popular request, a fine, plus many requirements for management and technology.

“Well, I’m glad they are doing the enforcement order, requiring them to get the fixes in place,” said Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, who was among the WWALS members who met with the City of Valdosta back in 2015 about these same sewage issues. She added, “I’m not sure what the $122,000 will be used for, but the fine seems small. I just want the problem fixed for good if possible.”

The Order addresses much (but not all) of what Suwannee Riverkeeper asked GA-EPD to do: https://wwals.net/?p=50979 For example, it requires the City to test water quality all the way down to the state line. One thing it does not include is any requirements for reimbursing downstream well and river testing expenses.

“It’s good to see that the EPD is FINALLY taking this issue seriously!” said Suzy Hall, WWALS Testing Committee Chair. “I can’t help but feel WWALS’ diligence in testing has been a big part of this action, and must continue regardless of any order for the City to conduct testing.”

The entire 93-page Order is on the WWALS website, here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/2020-04-13–ga-epd-vld-enforcement-order

“This Order has been a long time coming. It includes an outline of a sad history of mistakes and neglect. I hope the Order will finally get the City’s attention,” said Dr. Tom Potter, WWALS Science Committee Chair and taxpayer of the City of Valdosta.

Send your comments by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
   Mr. Lewis Hays
   Manager, Watershed Compliance
   Environmental Protection Division
   2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
   Atlanta, GA 30334
   Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
   404-463-4953

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

Contact: John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org
WWALS Watershed Coalition
850-290-2350, 229-242-0102
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

===

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

GA-EPD Enforcement Order for Valdosta wastewater with fine 2020-04-13

Update 2020-05-04: Press Release, Three weeks to comment on GA-EPD Valdosta wastewater Consent Order.

Much of what many people requested is in this Enforcement Order EPD-WP-8904 of the Public Notice of April 27, 2020.

[Photo 1: Site where sewage flowed out of manhole into Sugar Creek.]
Photo 1: Site where sewage flowed out of manhole into Sugar Creek.

Perhaps the most popular request, a fine, is included. As a Project In-Lieu of Penalty (PIP) stream testing is required, three times a week, down to the state line. Plus: “The Respondent shall post all the results of biological monitoring required after major spills to its website and to the Georgia EPD Adopt-A-Stream website within one business day of receipt of the results.”

All 250 sewer line creek crossings must be inspected by drone crews.

Valdosta must notify many Florida agencies, plus in Georgia Lowndes Health and Brooks EMA.

Other things are missing. WWALS is not on that notification list, for example.

[Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.]
Photo 2: Dead largemouth bass in Sugar Creek below Bay Tree Road.

And the Order reveals some Valdosta violations the public never knew about, such as a massive fish kill in December 2019. The cost of that calculated by GA-DNR Wildlife Division seems inadequate, since it doesn’t take into account people being unwilling to fish on the Withlacoochee River, for example.

If you think there should be more or changed requirements, the Public Comment period ends May 27, 2020.

Send comments to: Continue reading

Valdosta Pump Station Standard Operating Procedures 2020-04-20

This appears to be the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the Remer Lane Pump Station that was offline in early December 2019, causing a record raw sewage spill.

It does include these items:

  • Verify generator main breaker is closed.
  • Verify no alarms on generator control panel at generator.
  • Verify generator switches are set to automatic at generator.
  • Verify alarm beacons outside and inside of building are not flashing. Troubleshoot if flashing.

We got two copies, with slightly different formatting. The other copy also has:

  • Verify no SCADA alarms present in system

[1 of Remer Pump Station Inspection CheckList]
1 of Remer Pump Station Inspection CheckList

Both copies, and the two copies for the Gornto Road Pump Station, are marked at the top “Version 1: Dec 2019”. Is that early December before the big spill, or late December afterwards?

In addition we got a Work Order Detail, but Continue reading

Valdosta Sewer System Standard Operating Procedures 2020-03-05

Update 2020-05-01: Valdosta Pump Station Standard Operating Procedures 2020-04-20.

I got two completely different sets of SOPs when I asked Valdosta and GA-EPD for Standard Operating Procedures. Neither of them seem to say anything about the Pump Station that was offline in early December 2019, causing a record raw sewage spill.

[Sanitary Sewer Overflow Response Process]
Sanitary Sewer Overflow Response Process

Towards the end of February, I asked the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) and the City of Valdosta for Valdosta’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as discussed in the January 8, 2020, public meeting about the December 2019 record raw sewage spill from a manhole downstream on Sugar Creek from the Remer Lane Pump Station, which had been left turned off. That was the meeting in which Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber told me to “ask EPD,” so I did, and I also asked Valdosta.

Received from GA-EPD:

That copy of the Consent Order is much longer (66 pages) and more recent (December 9, 2013) than the version (9 pages and September 23, 2013) on the City of Valdosta website and blogged by WWALS in 2018.

[GA-EPD cover letter]
GA-EPD cover letter

Received from the City of Valdosta were Standard Operating Procedures for

Those are all very interesting, but if they say anything about SOPs for the Remer Lane Pump Station (or the Gornto Road Pump Station), I can’t find it.

So I have sent each of Valdosta and GA-EPD another request, this time very specifically for Continue reading

Videos: Florida Rivers Task Force about Valdosta Wastewater 2019-02-28

Update 2019-03-17: Valdosta has agreed to meet with the dozen downstream Florida counties, elected officials to elected officials, 6PM, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at Valdosta City Hall Annex, and “the public will have an opportunity to speak.”

A dozen downstream Florida counties want to meet with the Valdosta City Council, elected officials to elected officials, to present a resolution they passed urging the states of Florida and Georgia to do something about Valdosta’s sewage, and to discuss raising funds to help Valdosta fix its sewage infrastructure, so the Florida counties can restore their eco-tourism on the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Suwannee, and Santa Fe Rivers. Restoring eco-tourism came up again and again. It’s not just the actual sewage, which never gets to Taylor or Alachua Counties. It’s the stigma of sewage in the rivers. Fixing Valdosta’s spills and regular testing to find other sources are needed.

Valdosta said no. So delegates from all dozen counties are going to come to the March 21, 2019, Valdosta City Council Regular Session and speak in Citizens to Be Heard, three minutes each, some time after 5:30 PM that Thursday evening.

[Movie: Approval of Resolution (115M)]
Movie: Approval of Resolution (115M) Task Force, clockwise from front: Scott R. Koons (NCFRPC), Ken Cornell (Alachua County), Anthony Adams (Lafayette County), Don Hale (Suwannee County), Gene Higginbotham (Dixie County), Kenrick Thomas (Gilchrist County), Danny Riddick (Bradford County), Thomas Demps (Taylor County), Beth Burnam (Hamilton County), Rick Davis (Chair, Madison County)

Apparently Valdosta told them that Valdosta doesn’t do workshops or joint meetings, which is curious, since Valdosta’s city council members a month earlier met with council members from all the other Lowndes County cities and the Lowndes County Commissioners about their Service Delivery Strategy, which includes wastewater. Last year, members of Valdosta Mayor and Council met with elected officials Continue reading