“If you see it, it’ll break your heart. In a deadfall it all gathers,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James said to me on his radio show about trash in Sugar Creek, just above the Withlacoochee River, where it washes downstream into Florida and the Suwannee River, onwards to the Gulf. We discussed how the problem has been documented by the City of Valdosta since 2010, and some inexpensive solutions.
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.
Also maybe Valdosta will finally do something to Continue reading
Update 2021-07-16 Clean Withlacoochee River 2021-07-15.
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?
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.Continue reading
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.”
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.”Scotti Jay wrote, “it’s just zip tied. But some locations have permanent signs.” Continue reading
Update 2021-07-16 Clean Withlacoochee River 2021-07-15.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
Update 2021-07-09: Detail of Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA * 8, Starke, FL * 6, 2021-07-08
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.
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.
Thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for forwarding this message from Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber: Continue reading
Update 2021-02-21: Clean downstream Friday Withlacoochee River 2021-02-19.
As usual, heavy rains washed contamination into the Withlacoochee River, first detected by Madison Health Tuesday at State Line and FL 6, although oddly Sullivan Launch @ CR 150 was within the one-time sample limit for E. coli.
The good news: with so much rain, the contamination will probably be diluted and washed downstream rapidly.
The bad news: more rain likely coming. And there’s more cattle manure that can wash down Okapilco Creek into the Withlacoochee River. Plus with the Withlacoochee River rising in Valdosta, and more rain falling on Valdosta and Quitman, will we see manhole sewage spills?
We hope to have WWALS results for today ready by tomorrow (Friday), and most likely FDEP will publish Madison Health results, as well. Possibly even Valdosta will publish their Wednesday results by Friday.
We also have a surprising spot check in Drexel Park, and Valdosta’s last week results, which fit with the Madison Health and WWALS results. Continue reading
Most of the testing training last Saturday was online via videos and zoom, but there was a practice segment on Onemile Branch in Drexel Park in Valdosta. WWALS trainer Gretchen Quarterman plated a sample from that creek and found it surprisingly good, unlike what we usually get there.
All pictures by Gretchen Quarterman. Click on any small image to see a larger one.
Bobby McKenzie was among those getting recertified, as is required by Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) each year. Continue reading
“Something looking funny at one mile,” reported Scotti Jay Jones last night, from the Wainwright Drive bridge over Onemile Branch.
Soon, from Baytree Road, he added: “There’s workers neck deep in this stuff. I saw workers neck deep. In this water main break. Repair. How does this affect our drainage system?”
I would like to compliment Valdosta Utilities and its Director Darryl Muse for being on site and dealing with the situation. We do have a few questions, though.
Here’s what Scotti saw that tipped him off: Continue reading