Tag Archives: Richard Hardy

Valdosta spilled 6.7 million gallons including 1.34 million gallons raw sewage 2024-04-12

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

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

Update 2024-04-15: Homerville, Rochelle, and Tifton sewage spills 2024-04-11.

Valdosta says of the 6.7 million gallons of liquid that overflowed from its catch basin, 20% was “conventional sewage”, so that’s 1.34 million gallons of raw sewage.

[Valdosta spilled 6.7 million gallons, including 1.34 million gallons raw sewage, Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, Spring Branch 2024-04-12-14]
Valdosta spilled 6.7 million gallons, including 1.34 million gallons raw sewage, Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, Spring Branch 2024-04-12-14

The press release says the City of Valdosta knew about it Friday morning, and the spill stopped Sunday morning, yet Valdosta did not tell the public until Monday, this morning.

That’s from the equalization (EQ) basin at the entrance to the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The one Valdosta built while never revealing how they picked its size. The one with two creeks flowing to the Withlacoochee River, at least one of which is filthy. Continue reading

Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06

Update 2023-07-29: Clean Withlacoochee River, filthy Crawford and Sugar Creeks 2023-07-28.

That word “immediately,” I don’t think it means wait yet another day before informing the public, after Valdosta Utilities already waited four days to tell GA-EPD about the sewage spill.

Even though Valdosta wrote to GA-EPD, “we did not observe any direct flow to the creek,” Valdosta’s own state-required followup testing showed too-high Fecal coliform and E. coli in Knights Creek a week later, downstream, but not upstream, of the spill. Just because they didn’t see the sewage running over the ground doesn’t mean it’s not seeping through the vegetation or the ground itself.

Maybe you’re as tired as I am of Valdosta blaming sewage spills on contractors. Who hires the contractors? Who supervises them? Why doesn’t Valdosta’s fancy SCADA system alert the city to these spills early, where, when, and how much?

The information seemed pretty skimpy that Valdosta Utilities supplied to the public about its July 6, 2023, sewage spill into Knights Creek. Also, I wanted to know when did Valdosta tell GA-EPD, since that spill did not show up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report for a long time, Not until after I asked GA-EPD about it, actually, even though Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy had said he would look into that.

So I filed an open records request with the City of Valdosta for all communications between Valdosta and GA-EPD about Valdosta’s last three sewage spills. I only got back information about the Knights Creek spill, so here is that much.

[Where, When, After: Valdosta's Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06]
Where, When, After: Valdosta’s Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06

Let me say that recent communications from Valdosta Utilities have been much improved in recent days, coming from Assistant Director Jason Barnes. Barnes took it upon himself to warn WWALS about contamination in Sugar Creek before the cleanup paddle we had scheduled for last Saturday, so we converted it into an on-land cleanup. That elevated Fecal coliform and E. coli came from Valdosta’s July 17, 2023, spill into Hightower Creek near River Street, upstream from Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River. Reporting for that July 17th spill was much better: a press release went out the next day, and it also appeared in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report the day after the spill. And Jason Barnes showed up in person to see about getting a warning sign placed at Sugar Creek.

Back to the July 6, 2023, spill into Knights Creek, above Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.

Utilities Director Bradley L. Eyre did not write to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) until July 10th, four days after the spill was discovered on July 6th. Continue reading

Valdosta City Manager, sewage spills, and trash 2023-07-18

After I complimented them quite a bit yesterday, I fear I must do so again today: Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy and Assistant City Manager Catherine Ammons.

Yet there is still room for improvement on sewage spills, and ample room on trash and Click ‘n’ Fix, as well as generally on letting the public know what the city of Valdosta is doing to fix problems that affect waterways and the public.

[Valdosta officials and recent sewage spill reports 2023-07-19]
Valdosta officials and recent sewage spill reports 2023-07-19

Not only did they get a press release out for yesterday’s sewage spill the day after the spill. After I sent GA-EPD that WWALS blog post, the state replied at 8 AM this morning saying that spill was in today’s GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. Indeed it is, and already picked up by the WWALS automated software and on the WWALS website.

The Assistant City Manager asked what I thought a reasonable time was to get a press release out about a sewage spill, and I answered that specific question (certainly not five days, and as soon as the city knows what’s happening).

Here’s the answer I should have given, since it’s not what I think, it’s who we are all trying to protect. People who fish, swim, or boat on the river or in the creeks need to know when there is a health hazard. So as quickly as practically possible, preferably by the day after the spill, or even the same day. Especially for weekends, when the most people do those things, please get the press release out before the weekend, and that does not mean after 5 PM on Friday. Plus post it on the city’s website and on the city’s own social media.

As I promised in the meeting with the city officials yesterday, I have filed an open records request for the letters Valdosta sent GA-EPD informing them of those spills. We’ll see where the long delay was on the previous spill reports.

More about sewage spills

Continue reading

Another Valdosta River Street Spill into Hightower Creek 2023-07-17

Update 2023-07-21: Clean Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers, but warning 2023-07-20.

At least they got the press release out in a more timely manner this time: only the day after the sewage spill. They also included an estimated number of gallons and a sort of precise location, as well as a cause of the spill.

[Map: 1700 River Street into Hightower Creek in WLRWT]
Map: 1700 River Street into Hightower Creek, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River
in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT)

Speaking of cause, notice no mention of rain, which is probably because there was no significant rain on Valdosta Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

Indeed, rain can cause sewage spills, but Valdosta does not seem to have many of those these days, and that’s a good thing. However, Valdosta still has spills for other reasons, mostly related to sewer system infrastructure that was not updated for decades. In recent years the city has spent upwards of $100 million on sewer system fixes, but there is still a long way to go.

This 6,000 gallon sewage spill is in the same place as a 1,170 gallon spill on February 8, 2023.

The Valdosta press release does not name “the creek”, but it’s a branch of Hightower Creek, which runs into Sugar Creek, the Withlacoochee River, and then the Suwannee River. I wonder if the erosion was partly caused by the previous spill.

WWALS received this press release from Valdosta at 5:16 PM today. Which is interesting, because I was in a meeting with City Manager Richard Hardy and Assistant City Manager Catherine Ammons from 2:15 to almost 3 PM, with one of the topics discussed being sewage spills, and they did not mention this spill.

One thing I mentioned to them was that the two previous Valdosta spills (into Knights Creek and into One Mile Branch) finally showed up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report yesterday, after I asked the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) why they had not already appeared. We shall see how long this one takes to show up there.

The Valdosta Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE
DATE:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023 Continue reading

Valdosta Williams Street One Mile Branch Sewage Spill Sign 2023-06-26

Update 2023-06-26: Withlacoochee River and Sugar Creek OK Sunday 2023-06-25.

Nobody from the City of Valdosta answered my questions about the One Mile Branch Williams Street sewage spill after the Saturday 5:14 PM Valdosta press release, until City Manager Richard Hardy this morning texted me “1600 block William St.”

That’s between E. College and E. Moore Streets. But that’s not where the sewage spill warning sign is.

[Sewage spill sign, pump, pipe at One Mile Branch, pipe and vac truck along Williams Street, E. College St. to E. Moore St., 2023-06-26]
Sewage spill sign, pump, pipe at One Mile Branch, pipe and vac truck along Williams Street, E. College St. to E. Moore St., 2023-06-26

The first WWALS scout to get there was WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, who sent back these pictures, and some videos:
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKwQ5xfKf-QyzUieq3tFY0Ps6TmiJa65A

Why Valdosta Utilities or the Valdosta PIO did not post such pictures is mysterious.

I’d give Valdosta a B+ on dealing with the spill (no higher, because they did not discover it).

But I give Valdosta a D on informing the public: a press release three days after they were informed of the spill, after 5PM on a Saturday, when people would already be fishing or boating downstream, with no location within three miles, no estimate of how much was spilled, unclear on whether the situation is fixed or not, and no answer to questions for another day and a half. Continue reading

Good trash can news from Valdosta City Marshalls

Update 2023-05-14: Pictures: turtle rescue 2023-04-24.

Valdosta Community Protections Manager Anetra Riley yesterday told WWALS that City Marshalls have sent notices to all parking lot owners in Valdosta that they must follow city ordinances and place trash cans in their parking lots. Not just under the roofs at the store entrances: strategically placed, as the ordinance says.

[Community Protections Manager Anetra Riley and trash cans in parking lot]
Community Protections Manager Anetra Riley and trash cans in parking lot

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and Two Mile Branch neighbor Katherine Ball were pleased to hear this new ordinance enforcement initiative. This ordinance enforcement is one of many levels WWALS continues to advocate to fix the trash problem.

Anetra Riley also told us that something long promised by the Mayor on his radio show has finally happened: Continue reading

Better Click ‘n’ Fix ticket handling and ordinance citations –Valdosta Acting City Manager Richard Hardy 2023-04-11

Acting Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy called me yesterday. This is unusual, although he does usually answer his phone if I call him.

[Valdosta Acting City Manager Richard Hardy and City Engineer Ben O'Dowd 2023-03-25]
Valdosta Acting City Manager Richard Hardy and City Engineer Ben O’Dowd 2023-03-25

Even more unusual was his news: the city may be moving ahead on keeping trash out of creeks.

First some background.

Recent adventures in Click ‘n’ Fix include this one, Continue reading

Valdosta liability insurance does not cover water 2021-05-01

Apparently Valdosta city employees can’t get wet. That includes the Stormwater Division.

[Policy, River]
Policy, River

So if you see any Valdosta City employee in a creek, river, pond, or swamp, whether in a boat or in mud boots, it seems they must be off the clock.

This could explain why Valdosta has a contractor clean out stormwater pond facility clusters.

In Valdosta’s GEORGIA INTERLOCAL RISK MANAGEMENT AGENCY COMBINED AUTOMOBILE, CRIME, LIABILITY AND PROPERTY COVERAGES MEMBER COVERAGE AGREEMENT, see especially under GENERAL EXCLUSIONS APPLICABLE TO THE PROPERTY COVERAGE SECTIONS on page 7: Continue reading

Pictures: Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle 2023-03-04

Update 2023-03-13: Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle in Valdosta Daily Times and WWALS video of what the Mayor and Chairman said.

Everybody had a good time at the Fourth Annual Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle. The water level was just right for the shoals to be ripples and the weather was perfect: not cold, not hot, nice and shady.

Phil Hubbard led this one of many WWALS paddle outings. Three people fell in and one paddle got lost, but everybody recovered and nobody went home mad.

[Mayor, WWALS, Chairman; banners; boaters; outfall; Spook Bridge]
Mayor, WWALS, Chairman; banners; boaters; outfall; Spook Bridge

WWALS is proud to bring together Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter and Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson at the site of the county’s recent acquisition of 71 acres from Helen Tapp to add to the 49 acres Parks and Rec already owns to eventually form Troupville Nature Park. Continue reading

Valdosta Mayor Scott James on trash at Hightower Creek 2022-12-15

With a sudden break in his schedule, Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson drove to see the parking lot where people park, eat their lunch, and toss their trash next to a creek.

He didn’t like it, and said so. Here’s the problem and how to fix it.

You can help by reporting trash or other problems through Valdosta’s Click ‘n’ Fix app.

[Mayor, trash, fast food, trash cans at storefronts]
Mayor, trash, fast food, trash cans at storefronts

He had not seen this mess before, on St. Augustine Road, next to Hightower Creek. Continue reading