Calls from Atlanta and from downstream in Florida about the three Valdosta wastewater overflows in February prompted WWALS as the local watershed organization to contact the City of Valdosta about organizing a presentation to the interested parties. Valdosta presented less than two weeks later, and brought their entire hierarchy related to this issue, from the mayor on down. Plus Lowndes County, which isn’t even responsible for Valdosta’s wastewater, was represented by their Chairman and a Commissioner. In Valdosta’s slides and the LAKE videos of that meeting of Tuesday 17 March 2015, you can see many questions were answered, but some are still open.
Solutions are funded, in progress, and ahead of schedule for many of the wastewater problems involving the Withlacoochee River watershed and the Withlacoochee River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), as you can also see on Valdosta’s Sanitary Sewer System Improvements web page. Those problems mostly follow rainfall upstream that flows down the Withlacoochee River. There is significant spring flood potential in that watershed, according to the National Weather Service, so don’t be surprised if you see more Valdosta overflows into the Withlacoochee River this month and next. Rome wasn’t plumbed in a day.
However, Valdosta also sits in the Alapaha River watershed: see the previously-posted series of maps. That is why Valdosta has two wastewater treatment plants, the other one being the Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (MCWTP), as you can see on this map:
The Mud Creek plant hasn’t been in the news much because it doesn’t overflow, partly because it was already renovated some years back. However, all three of those February overflow alerts by Valdosta involved Knights Creek or Dukes Bay Canal, both of which flow into Mud Creek. At least two out of three February overflows into those creeks were because of rains directly on Valdosta, and rain in the Alapaha River watershed can be quite different from in the Withlacoochee River watershed.
And while Valdosta is spending close to $300 million fixing problems in the Withlacoochee River watershed, little, if any, of that money is going for the Alapaha River watershed. This leaves some open questions, starting with how many spills have there been into the Alapaha River watershed? Valdosta couldn’t answer that, and while all their reports are on their website, there’s no easy way to search them for that or similar queries.
WWALS will be watching, as will Greenlaw and Save Our Suwannee and Florida’s Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and Hamilton, Madison, and Suwannee Counties, Florida. SRWMD pointed out on the call that there was a perception problem: every spill sounds like a disaster. We shall see what Valdosta does to deal with that, starting with whether their press releases start mentioning the Alapaha River watershed when an overflow goes into Knights Creek or Duke Bay Canal or Mud Creek, and continuing with whether Valdosta starts posting comparative information so people can see how each spill compares to others, to rainfall, to water quality tests upstream and down, etc. And SRWMD and others can help by doing baseline testing when there is no spill.
In addition to this list of questions previously posted, attendees submitted more questions. Let’s wait a bit to see which ones Valdosta answers, and then post them with answers and still-open questions.