Tag Archives: Alapahoochee River

Bad up and down: Withlacoochee River 2021-01-05

Update 2021-01-08: Bad Withlacoochee, OK Alapaha 2021-01-07.

Now with Madison and Hamilton Health advisory.

Monday Valdosta upstream water quality results are bad, and Tuesday Madison Health downstream results are worse. If I were you I would not swim, fish, or boat the Withlacoochee River until better results come in. Plus we have reports that Running Spring on the Suwannee River is brown like it usually is after contamination comes down the Withlacoochee River.

[Bad water quality, bad map on Swim Guide, Withlacoochee River]
Bad water quality, bad map on Swim Guide, Withlacoochee River

Madison and Hamilton Health have issued a joint health advisory.

[Health Advisory, Withlacoochee River]
Health Advisory, Withlacoochee River
PDF

It’s not clear how much of this is due to Tifton’s three weekend sewage spills into the New River and how much is from cattle, pig, and horse manure runoff. Probably mostly the latter. We have ordered some new DNA test kits, but they’re not here yet.

The slightly good news about this sitution is that before the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report and all the new testing by Valdosta, Madison Health, WWALS, and others, this kind of thing may have been going on after every big rain for years, and nobody knew. Also, as Valdosta was quick to point out, at least their Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant did not spill. Maybe the new catch basin helped.

However, it seems like Valdosta could at least fix the potholes in the middle of Mildred Street, where the Saturday spill apparently was. Continue reading

Sewage Spills: Quitman, Valdosta, Tifton 2021-01-03

Update 2021-01-06: Bad up and down: Withlacoochee River 2021-01-05.

Tifton spilled raw sewage three times over the weekend, all into the New River, upstream of the Withlacoochee River. As already reported, Valdosta spilled into Knights Creek, which goes into Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River just above Sasser Landing. We have no water quality data downstream of any of those spills.

Plus Quitman finally reported a spill from more than a week ago, but downstream water quality on the Withlacoochee River the next day was actually better than the day before.

However, the big rains in between drove plenty of contamination, probably mostly cow, pig, and horse manure, into the Withlacoochee, with even Madison Health showing too-high E. coli at State Line for December 29, 2020.

The even bigger rains this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday probably have done the same.

So I’d recommend avoiding not just the Withlacoochee River, but also the Alapaha River for a few days, until better test results come in.

[Spills and little data]
Spills and little data

The one recent datapoint we have is WWALS tester Tasha Ekman LaFace’s record-high for that location 1,333 cfu/100 mL E. coli at Naylor Park Beach on the Alapaha River, just upstream from US 84. But that can’t be from the Valdosta sewage spill, since Naylor Beach is way upstream of the Alapahoochee River Confluence with the Alapaha River. However, Naylor Beach is not a long way downstream from Lakeland, so it will be interesting if we hear about any spills from there. Continue reading

Valdosta Mildred Street Sewage Spill, Alapaha River Basin 2021-01-02

Update 2021-01-05: Sewage Spills: Quitman, Valdosta, Tifton 2021-01-03.

Happy New Year from Valdosta, with a sewage spill at one of its chronic locations, although Valdosta was vague about exactly where and got the creek wrong. I wonder how they plan to fix this flooding that causes sewage spills if they don’t know where the water drains?

On January 2, 2021, the City of Valdosta Utilities Department responded to a call concerning a sanitary sewer overflow at a manhole in the 400 block of Mildred Street, an area that experiences localized flooding during rain events. The sanitary sewer spill was a result of excessive rainfall over a 24 hour period. This amount of rainfall over a short period of time resulted in storm water infiltration and inflow entering the collection system, and causing the manhole to exceed its capacity. Approximately 25,150 gallons of combined storm water and sewage discharged at this location, eventually entering into Dukes Bay.

…Warning signs have been posted at this location as well as downstream to advise the public to avoid any contact with this waterway for the next seven (7) days.

[Sewage Spill, Mildred Street, Valdosta, Alapaha River]
Sewage Spill, Mildred Street, Valdosta, Alapaha River

Although Valdosta’s press release is careful to point out that this spill did not come from the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treetment Plant (WWTP), which is good, the PR does not say where “downstream” is. Dukes Bay Canal goes to Mud Swamp Creek, then the Alapahoochee River, and then reaches the Alapaha River slightly upstream of Sasser Landing, in Hamilton County, Florida.

[Mildred Street to Sasser Landing, Alapaha River]
Mildred Street to Sasser Landing, Alapaha River in the map of the Alapaha River Water Trail.

So this spill will not affect the Withlacoochee River. WWALS will attempt to get some testing done on the Alapaha River. I’d also like to see a Valdosta warning sign posted at Sasser Landing, but I’d bet there is no such sign.

What is downstream is known to Valdosta’s Engineering Department Stormwater Division: City of Valdosta – Master Stormwater Management Plan 2010,

Section 5
Mud Swamp Creek Basin

Mud Swamp Creek is located on the southern side of the City of Valdosta, flowing from west to east. The Mud Swamp Creek basin is about 43 square miles in total area and is tributary to the Alapahoochee River. Within the City, significant drainage features tributary to Mud Swamp Creek include the Dukes Bay Canal and Knights Creek. The Dukes Bay Canal represents approximately 10 percent of the total tributary area of Mud Swamp Creek, while Knights Creek accounts for nearly 40 percent. During the April 2009 storm, some flooding was experienced along Mud Swamp Creek; however, the severity of the flooding was minimal when compared to flooding associated with the Withlacoochee River. Severe flooding, however, was noted downstream of Mud Swamp Creek along the Alapahoochee and Alapaha Rivers.

I wonder if Valdosta has ever fixed this problem, identified later in Section 5:

5.1.3 Existing Conditions

  • Cypress Street Improvements: The 1996 SWMP recommended upsizing the culvert under Cypress Street to a 3 ft H x 5 ft W box culvert. The City has designed this upgrade; however, the new culvert was never constructed. Currently, there is a double 30-inch circular culvert crossing under Cypress Street.

[Dukes Bay Canal East]
Dukes Bay Canal East

However, according to the Valdosta Stormwater Division, Mildred Street does not drain into Dukes Bay Canal.

[3 node locations with potential structural flooding]
3 node locations with potential structural flooding

Instead, Mildred Street drains into Knights Creek. We’ve mentioned this before, for example after Valdosta’s December 14, 2018, 408 Mildred Street spill of 123,375 gallons of raw sewage. Actually, Valdosta even listed that one with GA-EPD as going into Knights Creek.

Also notice that time they were more specific: 408, not just 400 block. But earlier that same month when Valdosta spilled 210,000 gallons they listed it merely as 400 block Mildred Street, although they did get Knights Creek right.

[Valdosta Sub-basins]
Valdosta Sub-basins
PDF

More specifically, Mildred street drains into to what we’re calling Knights Creek Cypress Street Branch 03110202006919, which runs into Knights Creek, which goes into Dukes Bay Canal, etc.

[Knights Creek]
Knights Creek

Valdosta Press Release

Thanks to Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson, WWALS did get a copy of this PR yesterday at 3:26 PM. However, despite years of promises from Valdosta, we did not get a notice when the state agencies were notified. This Valdosta spill has not yet shown up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report, although one from Quitman has, from December 22, 2020; stay tuned on that one.

Weekend Storm Results in Manhole Overflow

On January 2, 2021, the City of Valdosta Utilities Department responded to a call concerning a sanitary sewer overflow at a manhole in the 400 block of Mildred Street, an area that experiences localized flooding during rain events. The sanitary sewer spill was a result of excessive rainfall over a 24 hour period. This amount of rainfall over a short period of time resulted in storm water infiltration and inflow entering the collection system, and causing the manhole to exceed its capacity. Approximately 25,150 gallons of combined storm water and sewage discharged at this location, eventually entering into Dukes Bay.

It is important to note that this spill did not occur at the city’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant. During the storm, city infrastructure operated as designed. The Withlacochee Plant ran all four units plus the two excess flow equalization basins.

The city continues its ongoing effort to improve the infrastructure of the city’s collection system and eliminate these issues in the future. The city Utilities Department is currently working on an inflow and infiltration project that will identify sources of I&I, eventually eliminating excess flows into the sewer system during rain events. Sewer spills are not acceptable at any time. It has been the city’s top priority to prevent them all through the recent construction of the WWTP New Secondary Equalization Basin, as well as the Lift Station Rehab Program, Smoke Testing Program, Annual Manhole Rehab Program and the ongoing River Sampling Program that tests waters three times a week.

All appropriate regulatory agencies has been notified, and sampling of the impacted area will start immediately. Warning signs have been posted at this location as well as downstream to advise the public to avoid any contact with this waterway for the next seven (7) days. City staff have cleaned and disinfected the impacted area of this discharge.

[Google Streetview: north from 400 Mildred Street @ Cypress Street]
Google Streetview: north from 400 Mildred Street @ Cypress Street

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

Sulak’s Defeat at Jennings Defeat 2020-08-26

Explorer Dr. Ken Sulak has solved an Alapaha River rapids naming mystery. He recounts:


So in 1797, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poem inspired by a dream.

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Insert three ‘A” and the dreamscape river becomes the Alapaha, and appropriately so. Yesterday, I embarked on the foolish idea of a solo kayak journey up 3 miles of the Alapaha from Sasser Landing (just below the confluence of the Alapaha and the Alapahoochee rivers) to the site of the 1800s Roebucks Ferry and later Roebucks Bridge.

[Jennings Defeat Rapids, Ogeechee Gum, GS&F RR trestle below CR 150]
Jennings Defeat Rapids, Ogeechee Gum, GS&F RR trestle below CR 150

That crossing brought settlers and other travelers from Jacksonville and Fernandina along the GA/FL border across the Alapaha to Miccotown, the old Seminole Indian town in the triangle of land protected by the two flanking rivers. The road/trail (gone now on both sides) continued west across the Alapahoochee at the site of the early 1900s Beatty Bridge (undoubtedly preceded in the mid-1800s by an undocumented ferry), and on to Hickstown in Madison County and westward. Miccotown became the first county seat of Hamilton County as the settlers suppressed the Seminoles and the old Indian town faded into obscurity in 1839. Continue reading

Waterkeepers Florida Against FDEP Assumption of Army Corps CWA 404 permitting 2020-11-02

Waterkeepers Florida, representing all fourteen Waterkeepers of Florida, wrote to U.S. EPA and FDEP yesterday objecting to FDEP’s plan to take over water permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. FDEP hasn’t even kept up with the responsibilities it has, and is in no way prepared to take on a much heavier load. Suwannee Riverkeeper voted for this letter, which was also signed by many other organizations, including OSFR and Paddle Florida.

Please vote today for people who will support clean water.

[Opposition and Addendum Letters]
Opposition and Addendum Letters

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)’s list of waterways it plans to assume (see FDEP’s Appendix A) omits numerous navigable waterways previously listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Checking all the Florida rivers that empty into the Gulf of Mexico, I found that most of them were included by FDEP, except not the Suwannee River or its tributaries (many creeks, Lake Santa Fe, and the Santa Fe, New, Ichetucknee, Alapaha, Alapahoochee, and Withlacoochee (north) Rivers), not the Withlacoochee (south) River nor its tributaries such as the Rainbow River, and not the Ochlockonee River nor its tributaries, such as Lake Talquin. I added 30 Suwannee River Basin waterways and 24 others to the Waterkeepers Florida list of missing waterways, which is the main subject of the Addendum letter (see PDF). The Addendum also contains copies of several letters previously sent to FDEP: an opposition letter similar to the one to EPA, a request for Public Hearings, and a request that online rulemaking hearings be discontinued until the pandemic allows holding them in person.

Opposition Letter

Here is a transcription of the letter to EPA. See also the PDF.

Don’t forget to vote for clean water. Continue reading

Pitcher plants, GA 31, Grand Bay –Gretchen Quarterman on WCTV 2020-08-21

Hooded Pitcher Plants are the answer to Lanier County Sheriff Nick Norton’s question to the Georgia Department of Transportation as to why the ditches were not being mowed on GA 31 between Valdosta and Lakeland.

Amber Spradley, WCTV, at GA 31 and Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA), August 22, 2020, GDOT discovers rare plants ahead of road project,

[Clockwise: Amber Spradley, Gretchen Quarterman, potted pitcher plants, Hooded Pitcher Plants]
Clockwise: Amber Spradley, Gretchen Quarterman, potted pitcher plants, Hooded Pitcher Plants

Gretchen Quarterman, a 10-year “Master Gardener” and the executive director of WWALS Watershed Coalition, tells WCTV Hooded Pitchers live in nutrient-poor bogs, or wetlands. They trap and consume insects to obtain nutrients for survival.

Continue reading

Winner: Raptor, flower, paddling organization, tree base: Within These WWALS #6 2020-05-16

The winner of Within These WWALS #6 is…

Emmy Kidder.

She wins a packet of WWALS photo notecards from that watershed, sent via postal mail from WWALS charter board member Bret Wagenhorst.

Swamps and Springs WWALS picture notecards

Here are the answers to Within These WWALS #6.

Name this native raptor that can dive into water and catch live fish, has white under its wings making it easier to identify from below, and builds its nests atop trees over bodies of water, like this one shown atop a cypress at dusk.

Osprey, Pandion haliaetus.

We paddle by this nest most every time on our Banks Lake Full Moon paddles. The next one is coming up Continue reading

More testing needed to track river pollution –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Gainesville Sun 2020-03-16

Gainesville Sun, 12:01 AM, Monday, March 16, 2020, John S. Quarterman: More testing needed to track river pollution (see also PDF),

Fecal bacterial contamination from Georgia probably reached the Gulf of Mexico about March 3, 2020, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD).

[Tifton to the Gulf]
Tifton to the Gulf
In the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

The good news: we know about that, because of much more water quality monitoring being done since I wrote a column about the issue last year for The Sun.

This recent testing was provoked by a spill of 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage into Sugar Creek near Valdosta, Ga., in December. With no rain, the sewage sat there for a week, and then moved down the Withlacoochee River in about three weekly globs, at least once reaching the Suwannee.

This Valentine’s Day, Valdosta exceeded our request, testing not one but Continue reading

Valdosta Sewage Public Meeting, Valdosta City Hall Annex, 2020-01-08

Update 2020-01-30: Videos.

Update 2020-01-05: Earlier this same Wednesday: Florida Sen. Bill Montford hosting Valdosta sewage public meeting in Madison, FL 2020-01-08.

A Special Called Meeting of the Valdosta City Council, about Valdosta’s record-largest raw sewage spill in December 2019, and what to do going forward. Attendees will include the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (presumably its Task Force on this subject), and apparently GA-EPD, EPA, FDEP, SRWMD, and of course Suwannee Riverkeeper. It is a public meeting, so anyone can attend. If it’s run like previous such meetings, anyone can ask questions. We have plenty. I hope you do, too.

When: 6 PM, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Where: General Purpose Room, Valdosta City Hall Annex, 300 North Lee Street, Valdosta, GA 31601

Event: facebook


“What storm events keep you up at night?” Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell asked Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse, 2019-10-07.

Continue reading

Suwannee Riverkeeper asks Georgia EPD to require Valdosta to do better about its record sewage spill 2019-12-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, December 19, 2019 — Compelled by the severity of Valdosta’s record raw sewage spill and the expenses and stigma incurred nearby and downstream, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition has sent a letter requesting ten enforcment actions to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD). WWALS member Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Florida, summed it up: “As a person living downstream on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, I feel shat upon by Valdosta over and over. I cannot drink the water from my well. I worry about the health of the river itself and the animals that live in it and drink from it. We in Florida were patient while Valdosta was improving their wastewater plant, which apparently was not adequate since we still have spills when it rains heavily. But this time it was not a rain event. It was gross negligence. I am out of patience. I believe it is time for legal action.”

The Suwannee Riverkeeper letter notes GA-EPD already has a legal action against Valdosta, a Consent Order. WWALS asks GA-EPD to use its enforcement power to require notification, water quality testing, education, and plans and procedures not only for preventing such spills but also for tracking them as they travel down our creeks and rivers and for remediation of effects on wells and reputation.

[2019-12-17--WWALS-GA-EPD-Valdosta-sewage-0001]
2019-12-17–WWALS-GA-EPD-Valdosta-sewage-0001

“Valdosta says it does what GA-EPD tells it to do, so we’re asking GA-EPD to tell them,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Today we’re forwarding the letter to Continue reading