Tag Archives: Sugar Creek

Twomile Branch and Withlacoochee River 2020-07-28

Update 2020-07-31: Just when you think it’s safe, nope, Withlacoochee River to GA-FL line 2020-07-29.

For Monday, July 27, 2020, Valdosta reports still slightly elevated bacterial counts at GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River, but nothing like the alert level of Friday. Yet counts at US 41 upstream and US 84 downstream remain completely normal. We can guess that rainwater coming down the Little River into the Withlacoochee diluted the contamination.

[Towmile Branch, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River]
Towmile Branch, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River

We don’t know where that Friday GA 133 contamination came from. Both Valdosta and Lowndes County say they did not spill any sewage, and the state of Georgia still reports no sewage spills in the Suwannee River Basin (ditto for Florida).

[Downstream, 16:25:10, 30.8661346, -83.3102568]
Downstream, 16:25:10, 30.8661346, -83.3102568

I even tested Tuesday on Twomile Branch just below Joree Millpond and behind the last house on Lake Drive (thanks to the landowner). Results there were higher than are good for longterm average, but below the single test limit.

[Upstream again, 16:12:23, 30.864, -83.3158]
Upstream, Twomile Branch, Lake Drive, Valdosta, GA, 2020-07-28, 16:12:23, 30.8640000, -83.3158000

We have no Valdosta results downstream of US 84 since Wednesday a week ago, and nothing from Florida since Tuesday a week ago. Continue reading

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

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:
http://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

Comments open on Georgia call for Valdosta to pay six-figure fine for spilling sewage in river –Georgia Recorder

‘“I commend EPD for doing an order that’s better than I expected, better than a lot of people expected” [Suwannee Riverkeeper John S.] Quarterman said. “There’s still room for improvement.”’

You can comment on the consent order by Wednesday, May 27, 2020, to:
Mr. Lewis Hays, Manager, Watershed Compliance,
Georgia Environmental Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1152 East
Atlanta, GA 30334
Lewis.Hays@dnr.ga.gov
404-463-4953

[Green at the Confluence]
Sara Jones with the Suwannee Riverkeeper prepares to test the water at the Withlacoochee River following a December sewage spill. A Georgia Environmental Protection Division consent order calls for the city of Valdosta to pay a $122,000 fine for sewage spills and permit violations. Scotti Jones

Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder, 5 May 2020, State calls for Valdosta to pay six-figure fine for spilling sewage in river,

The city of Valdosta is facing a $122,000 fine for spilling raw sewage into a creek that flows into a south Georgia river that runs downstream into Florida’s Suwannee River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

The proposed settlement with the state’s Environmental Protection Division is for Continue reading

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

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: http://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:
http://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

Trash on Two Mile Branch at Sugar Creek 2020-04-21

Cleanup opportunity on Two Mile Branch where it joins Sugar Creek!

A few days ago we got this: “Hello! I don’t know if y’all are the people I should contact, but I was at Two Mile Branch today, and there is a huge amount of garbage and debris.”

We have an offer of cleanup access from a neighboring property owner. It’s possible to do this while staying six feet apart, and people don’t even have to go at the same time. This is a great opportunity for #SuwanneeCleanup!

[Two views]
Two views

Easy way to report a problem (trash, sewer spill, etc.) to Continue reading

Cleaner Withlacoochee Monday, Tuesday; Suwannee unknown 2020-03-03

Update 2020-03-06: Special meeting to approve an RFP for an environmental attorney –Madison BOCC 2020-03-06

Tuesday data from Lowndes County, Georgia, shows much better water quality in Okapilco Creek upstream from Quitman and in the Withlacoochee River downstream. Remember, Lowndes County has its own sewer system, which did not spill. And one of Lowndes County’s results for the previous week is very interesting.

All the maps and charts in this post are on the WWALS website in a PDF for printing. They’re also on facebook.

The most recent data we have from Valdosta and Florida is for Monday. WWALS has not tested this week because of rain, but soon. You can help.

Yesterday and today, five inches of rain fell on Tifton, and all that water is washing downstream, with the Withlacoochee already in flood at Pinetta.

[Quitman to Withlacoochee River]
Map: Quitman to Withlacoochee River.
In the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

In the above map, northeast of Quitman near Okapilco Creek, are the Quitman sewage settling ponds, which Continue reading

FL state Sen. Montford in Madison about Valdosta sewage 2020-01-08

Update 2019-01-28: Fourth wave: bad water quality at State Line and Knights Ferry 2020-01-26

Update 2020-01-24: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 24, 2020, Wells test positive for e-coli in Madison County,

If you weren’t at the Madison County meeting about Valdosta sewage, 1PM, Wednesday, January 8, 2020, you can see the whole thing in these videos I took for WWALS.

[Movie: Fines? Lawsuits? EPA answer questions? (331M)]
Movie: Fines? Lawsuits? EPA answer questions? (331M)

If you want a shorter version, try Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer, January 11, 2020, 7.5 Mil Gal of Raw Sewage Headed Into N. FL From Valdosta – FL Sen. Bill Montford Wants Answers. See Stew ask his very perceptive question, Continue reading

Training: water quality testing by Georgia Adopt-A-Stream standards 2020-02-08

Chemical and Bacteriological water testing training for Georgia Adopt-A-Stream standards by our local trainers. Yes, we will also be scheduling a training for Florida methods.

Before attending either, please sign up using this google form. Be prepared to start testing soon afterwards in our water quality testing program.

Obviously E. coli from Valdosta’s December 2019 worst-ever raw sewage spill is motivation for testing, but that’s not all that gets into our waterways. The only way to tell when our rivers are clean and when they are not is regular testing.

When: 9 AM, Saturday, February 8, 2020

Location: SGRC, 327 W Savannah Ave, Valdosta, GA 31601, for the indoor classroom part.
The outdoor practicing part will be at Onemile Branch in Drexel Park, Valdosta. Please be dressed appropriately for the weather and wear boots for potential contact with the water.

Free: No charge to anyone. But be prepared to start testing soon after the training. We also recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!

Event: facebook

[Papers and chemicals]
Papers and chemicals at training in Drexel Park, 2019-09-14.
Kits, chemicals, and supplies such as Petrifilms are expensive, especially the more we test.
You can contribute to supplies at https://www.gagives.org/story/Wwals-Waterqualitykits.

Continue reading

Withlacoochee, Suwannee good, Okapilco Creek bad water quality 2020-01-18

Update 2020-01-23: Okapilco Creek better, Withlacoochee still clean 2020-01-22.

The good news: Gretchen Quarterman’s test results from the Mayor’s Paddle Saturday were clean.

[Gretchen Quarterman testing during Mayor's Paddle (Suzy Hall)]
Photo: Suzy Hall, of Gretchen Quarterman testing during Mayor’s Paddle 2020-01-18

The Withlacoochee River tested clean all the way from the state line to the Suwannee, and the Suwannee River clean all the way to US 250, on Friday, January 17, 2020, according to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). But somebody (Valdosta?) needs to pay for the well and river testing incurred to date from that record-largest Valdosta raw sewage spill of December 2019. And we need ongoing regular, closely spaced, water quality testing, and sources of funding (Valdosta?) for that, for at least two reasons detailed below.

Maybe you’d like to come talk about that at the Florida Rivers Task Force meeting 4PM today at the Holiday Inn, 213 SW Commerce Blvd, Lake City, FL, or at the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC) meeting at 7PM, same location.

Or you can speak in Citizens To Be Heard at the end of the Valdosta City Council meeting, 5:30 PM today, Valdosta City Hall, 216 E. Central Ave., Valdosta, GA.

[Clean rivers 2020-01-15-18]
Clean rivers 2020-01-15-18
The entire composite spreadsheet by WWALS is on the WWALS website, along with the recent data from Lowndes County and Florida.

The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) projection reported by WCJB on Thursday that Valdosta sewage had reached the Suwannee River fortunately proved not to come to pass. Cleaner Friday than Thursday, by results from WWALS, Lowndes County (which has its own sewer system that did not spill), and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Valdosta did not test on any weekdays last week, even though their Mayor was scheduled to paddle.

The difficulty of projecting river flows is one reason continual testing is the only way to be sure what’s in our rivers.

What’s in Okapilco Creek?

The interesting news: Lowndes County found high E. coli on Okapilco Creek south of Continue reading