Tag Archives: Mark Barber

Valdosta catching illegal dumpers, and some new management

Valdosta is actively pursuing the culprits ditching trash and dumping fecal waste into the Withlacoochee River, causing repeated spikes at GA 133.

They say they have even caught some.

And Valdosta has promoted two people: Catherine Ammons of Human Resources to Deputy City Manager of Administration, and Richard Hardy of Public Works to Deputy City Manager of Operations. Hardy is still Director of Public Works, but now he’s also over Engineering and Utilities, which also still retain their same Directors.

We don’t know whether these two news items are related. We do know we’re glad Valdosta recognizes that people downstream will continue to think they’re the cause of every Withlacoochee River contamination incident unless they actively find the real culprits.

Don’t worry: we post positive news about Valdosta when there is some, but we continue to watch them and other possible contamination sources like a hawk.

[Cleanups, Deputy City Managers]
Cleanups, Deputy City Managers

Pursuing dumping culprits

Valdosta PR, December 2, 2020, City Stresses Importance of Reporting Illegal Dumping in Local Waterways (see also Valdosta Today), Continue reading

Valdosta: Catch Basin finished

Valdosta has completed the long-awaited catch basin at the entrance to the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). That won’t stop spills that happen elsewhere, such as the big one in December 2019, but it might have stopped 2/3 of the December 2018 sewage spill gallons. And Valdosta’s press release also emphasizes further fixes elsewhere.

Valdosta WWTP Catch Basin

First proposed December 6, 2018, by by City Council Tim Carroll, just as Valdosta had its third major sewage spill episode of 2018, including eighteen locations, followed by five more on December 14 and 15. Only three of those spills came from the WWTP, but those three did account for most of the gallons spilled. However, the record December 2019 spill did not come from the WWTP at all.

Valdosta got a permit for the catch basin from GA-EPD in December 2019, before it was required to dig it in a new GA-EPD Consent Order. Valdosta held a groundbreaking July 21, 2020.

Now the catch basin is finished, after only a year and a half. It should decrease the likelihood of spills from the WWTP. December is the traditional Valdosta sewage spill season, and so far there have been none. Meanwhile, sanitary sewer work continues elsewhere in Valdosta.

Valdosta PR, November 19, 2020, Equalization Basin at Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Completed, Continue reading

Valdosta holds ground-breaking on WWTP catch basin 2020-07-21

Long-awaited, since December 2018, with GA-EPD permit in hand since December 2019, today was the groundbreaking for the new catch basin at the entrance to Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

[Ground breaking]
Photo: City of Valdosta, Ground breaking

The catch basin probably would have stopped 2/3 of the December 2018 spills. *The other 1/3 in December 2018 was from city infrastructure not acting as designed, unless 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilling from manholes was in that design.

It would not have done anything to stop the record December 2019 raw sewage spill, which resulted from the Remer Lane Pump Station being left offline and disconnected from the SCADA system.

However, some of the other projects mentioned in the below Valdosta press release may help with both those 2018 and 2019 other problems. It’s good to see Valdosta moving ahead to fix its chronic sewer system infrastructure problems.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2020
Release #07-21-104

City Breaks Ground on 7.26 Million-Gallon Equalization Basin at Withlacoochee WWTP

On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, The City of Valdosta broke ground on the new Equalization (EG) Basin located at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The new secondary basin will provide more than double the available storage for extended periods of operation at the peak hourly flow thereby reducing the potential for overflows at the Plant. The Project includes a lined 7.26 MG excavated Basin, a new pump station, and an associated gravity pipe and force main.

Since its start-up in 2016, 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

Dirty Crooked Creek Wednesday & Friday; Withlacoochee River better in GA Wednesday 2020-02-21

Update 2020-02-28: Madison County fed up with contaminated water –WCTV 2020-02-26

Two of these rows are not like the first, and the middle ones are worst.

[Three sets]
Three sets

The really ugly plates in the middle were made from water collected at the Devane Road bridge over Crooked Creek, just off of US 84, in Brooks County, Georgia, a bit east of Okapilco Creek, upstream of Knights Ferry Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River.

[Crooked Creek Bridge]
Crooked Creek Bridge

You can see these Friday results are even worse than what the Coles saw Wednesday. In this table of results for this week, focusing on Brooks County and downstream, my Friday Devane Road result is up in the range of what Valdosta saw for Monday at Knights Ferry on the Withlacoochee River. My Monday result for Devane Road was actually taken at US 84, and it would appear I was sampling ditch water, not the main creek. We will be using the Devane Road bridge location for sampling Crooked Creek. And if anyone knows a better name for this creek, let us know.

[Crooked Creek quite bad]
Crooked Creek quite bad
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of data from three Florida agencies, WWALS, and Valdosta is on the WWALS website.

I even stopped by Valdosta City Hall Friday to compliment them on something. But there is more Valdosta and the state of Florida need to do.

WWALS will keep testing. You can help.

The first row of plates is Continue reading

EPA passes the buck to GA-EPD for Valdosta raw sewage spill 2020-01-31

The EPA took weeks to write to WWALS to confirm less than what it said in the January 8, 2019 meeting in Madison, Florida:


      220 years to fix? Need better oversight --Brannan, EPA
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, still from WWALS Video, Madison, Florida, of Carol L. Kemker, Director, Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, and others.

In Georgia, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has authority for establishing procedures for how permitted utilities are to respond during a major spill event. The EPA has delegated permitting authority to the state under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program (NPDES). However, the EPA does maintain a state oversight role. After the sewage spill into the Withlacoochee, the EPA reached out to EPD to ensure the spill’s cause was properly addressed and notification procedures were followed. The EPA continues to work with EPD to reduce the possibility of future spills from Valdosta into the Withlacoochee River.

No detail was included in the EPA Region 4 letter to WWALS as to how the spill’s cause was to be addressed, or why notification procedures were the only other topic worth mentioning. EPA Region 4’s response says nothing about water quality testing, tracking procedures, alternative water supply, water well testing cost reimbursement, wildlife on land and water, underground plumes of contamination, or an educational campaign; all topics listed in the WWALS letter to which EPA is replying.

Apparently it took a week for the email I forwarded to EPA Region 4 on December 17th to get there on December 23, 2019. Then it took another month for EPA to send a paper reply letter in fancy packaging.

EPA also recommended: Continue reading

SRWMD slides and water quality data after Valdosta raw sewage spill, Withlacoochee River 2020-01-14

Update 2020-01-17: Mostly clean in Georgia, not in Florida, Withlacoochee River 2020-01-15

Here’s why we keep sampling.

Suwannee Riverkeeper sampling water at Troupville Boat Ramp
Suwannee Riverkeeper sampling water at Troupville Boat Ramp, Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 15, 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle.

SRWMD reports high bacterial counts for the third time at State Line (GA 31), and again at CR 150 (Sullivan Launch).

[SRWMD 2020-01-14 (WWALS composite spreadsheet)]
SRWMD 2020-01-14 (WWALS composite spreadsheet)

Will the Mayor’s Paddle happen as scheduled this Saturday, January 18, upstream (See Albany Herald, January 15, 2020)on the Withlacoochee River?

That depends on 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

Videos: Troupville River Camp at Valdosta City Council 2019-12-05

Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber described the Troupville River Camp project and the letters received at that time (more have since come in). After brief discussion, the Council approved unanimously the Mayor sending a letter of support.


      7b. Request for letter of support by WWALS
LAKE Video.

In Citizens To Be Heard (CBTH), WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman thanked Council for approving the letter.


      10. CTBH. - Gretchen Quarterman - WWALS ED
LAKE Video.

All the letters received thus far, including Continue reading

High E. coli at state line in Florida DOH water quality data 2019-12-24

According to data sent yesterday by Florida Department of Health (FDOH), Valdosta found elevated E. coli and Fecal coliform counts at US 84, 14 miles downstream from Sugar Creek, on December 18th.

[14-18 Dec 2019]
14-18 Dec 2019

That is consistent with Suzy Hall finding high E. coli counts at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp 8.44 miles downstream and three days later on December 21st.

It’s also consistent with FDOH detecting elevated E. coli after a rainy weekend at the state line 15.55 miles and three more days later on December 24th.

[24 Dec 2019]
24 Dec 2019

FDOH sent no data from Valdosta for any days after Continue reading