Tag Archives: stormwater

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!

Twin Pines Minerals permit applications to GA-EPD

Here are four of the five active permit applications to GA-EPD from Twin Pines Minerals related to the proposed titanium mine far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, and interchanges water with the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink. Apparently there is also an air quality permit application. Since the Army Corps has abdicated oversight of this mine, you can ask the Georgia government to reject these permits.

[Page 2]
Page 2
Figure 75: Proposed Project Aquatic Feature Impact Areas Map –Twin Pines Minerals

Here is the relevant passage from GA-EPD’s responses to my open records request. I have interleaved links to where the files for each application are on the WWALS google drive.

Here is a summary of the permit applications in the GA EPD Watershed Protection Branch: Continue reading

Clean Withlacoochee River Thursday for WWALS Boomerang Saturday 2020-10-22

2020-11-02: Bad Knights Ferry water quality, Withlacoochee River 2020-10-30.

You couldn’t ask for better water or weather conditions than for the WWALS Boomerang tomorrow (Saturday), from Georgia into Florida and back from State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River.
wwals.net/pictures/2020-10-24–boomerang/

And for the rest of the Withlacoochee and probably the Suwannee River, too. Even the report we got of a spill Monday in Valdosta appears to have been a false alarm. All water quality test results are advisory, since conditions can change rapidly. But no significant rain is expected, so happy boating, swimming, and fishing this weekend, especially at State Line Boat Ramp!

[Chart, State Line, Boomerang, FL-6]
Chart, State Line, Boomerang, FL-6

The weather prediction at Clyattville, GA, is for 70 degrees at 9AM, and 80 at noon, partly cloudy, with little chance of rain. There’s also been little rain for a week, so nothing much has washed into the rivers.

Those pesky shoals should be easier this year. The water level yesterday at the USGS Quitman Gauge was 2.3′ (85.81 feet NAVD88). The Thursday before last year’s Boomerang, October 24, 2019, it was 1.65″ (85.15 feet NAVD88). So the Withlacoochee River is about 2/3 of a foot or 8 inches higher than it was last year.

All that plus clean river water! Continue reading

Valdosta rainbarrels to reduce runoff

Gretchen got a rainbarrel from the City of Valdosta, I got some concrete blocks, we set the barrel on the blocks and connected it to a PVC pipe from a raingutter. In about 20 minutes of rain, the 50-gallon rainbarrel was full. We don’t even live in Valdosta, but rainbarrels are also about preventing sewage spills; read on.

City of Valdosta Stormwater Division, Raining
Photograph: John S. Quarterman at Okra Paradise Farms, Lowndes County, Georgia.

Within an hour we had a hose hooked up and we used some of the water in transplanting trees.

Video, more pictures, and more links to materials from the city of Valdosta and the state of Georgia on a separate LAKE blog post.

Part of Valdosta’s incentive for this Stormwater Education Outreach can be inferred from Continue reading

Resolution against state fee diversions discussed at Valdosta City Council 2018-01-11

For our waters, last Thursday, Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll recommended (Video) a resolution in support of a resolution in the Georgia state legislature to stop state fee diversions.


      12. Council Comments - Tim Carroll
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE) at Valdosta City Council, Thursday, January 11, 2018.

Newly elected Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Tooley wanted to know whether Continue reading

Valdosta has a new Utilities Director

The good news: no wastewater spills from Valdosta since January. W-Darryl-Muse And Valdosta has a new Utilities Director: Darryl Muse, formerly of Ocala, Marion County, Florida. While at Ocala, Muse handled converting septic tanks to city sewer and a wastewater plant upgrade, both to protect springs. Maybe he will be more sympathetic to people downstream in Florida than certain officials still with the City of Valdosta.

Having completed the installation of the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant and the the force main at the Y on Gornto, Continue reading

Bad bill HB 316 SB 116 would take away stormwater permit revenue

If you want the Valdosta wastewater situation to be worse, let HB 316 SB 116 pass, taking away revenue for Valdosta or anybody upstream or down to control stormwater.

It turns out HB 316 was apparently from 2009.

The stormwater bill before the Georgia legislature this year (2017) is SB 116.

Here are the current GAWP talking points about SB 116, which you may notice also mention HB 316, which leads me to believe SB 116 is just HB 316 back again under another name.

Please Oppose Senate Bill 116
Georgia Association of Water Professionals

Senate Bill 116 would exempt “water-neutral sites”, defined as those properties designed to control runoff form a 25 year, 24-hour storm event in a manner consistent with the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual (GSMM), from paying stormwater user fees charged by local governments or authorities that have established stormwater utilities. Water-neutral sites, as defined in this bill, still discharge stormwater to the local drainage system, which the local government or authority is legally responsible for operating and maintaining.

Implications of HB 316: We ask you to consider the following far-reaching implications of the bill.

  1. Local Control. The State of Georgia should not interfere in how a local government operates a utility or charges its customers. This would be equivalent to the State saying how a local utility could charge (or not charge) for water or sewer services. If the General Assembly exempts “water-neutral properties” from paying fees for stormwater services, could they next exempt a defined class of customers from paying local water and sewer fees in the future?
  2. Economic Impact on Local Governments. This bill could have a devastating impact on local governments who are required to operate and maintain stormwater drainage systems for the public good and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their communities. “Water Neutral” properties are not actually water neutral because they still discharge stormwater runoff to the local drainage system thereby causing an impact. A local government still must bear the cost of maintaining the stormwater drainage system even if every property builds a detention pond to the 25 year, 24 hour storm event standard. The City of Griffin reports that the potential loss of revenue to their stormwater utility, should this bill pass, would be approximately 40% of their annual user fee revenue, thus crippling their stormwater utility and its ability to provide essential services.
  3. Public Safety. Stormwater utility revenues allow local governments to reduce flooding and replace failing infrastructure, including collapsing culverts under public roads. There is an unacceptable risk to public safety if local governments no longer have the ability to collect revenues to perform important and essential storm water management services.
  4. Existing Credits. Eligible properties with detention ponds are already offered user fee credits ranging from 30 — 50% from most stormwater utilities. This credit is offered in recognition of the reduced impact these properties have on the drainage system. However, the credit is not 100% because controlling the 25 year, 24-hour storm does not eliminate a property’s impact on the local drainage system; the customer still receives stormwater services.
  5. Customer Equity. Local governments are alone in their responsibility to manage stormwater drainage systems and operate stormwater management programs to protect life and property from flooding, and to protect local waterways from stormwater impacts so that the State’s waters remain fishable and swimmable for Georgians to enjoy. There is virtually no funding available from the State or Federal governments to assist local governments in carrying out this important charge. Thus, local governments have been forced to develop local financing mechanisms to provide sufficient revenue sources to carry out this responsibility. Allowing a contributor to the problem to be exempted from participating in paying a fair user fee for this service would be grossly unfair to the remainder of the paying customers and to the local government as well.

Here are all the Georgia state senators in WWALS watersheds.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

In addition to ACCG and GAWP, this bill is also opposed by the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), including WWALS. Below are talking points from the ACCG website. Please contact your Georgia state legislators.

Please Oppose House Bill 316
Association County Commissioners of Georgia
Georgia Association of Water Professionals

House Bill 316 would exempt state government entities from paying local government stormwater utility charges. While specifically using the word “charges”, the proposed exemption appears to presume that the stormwater utility fee is a tax and not a fee for services. In presenting and promoting the bill, proponents may refer to these fees as a “rain tax”. However, in 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court specifically ruled in McLeod v. Columbia County that stormwater utility charges are, in fact, a fee for services, and not a tax. The State is exempt from taxes, but there is no legal or logical basis for the State to exempt itself from paying valid fees for actual services rendered.

Implications of HB 316: Continue reading

Valdosta force main and new WWTP are online and working

The recent rains caused little wastewater overflow, according to Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll, who forwarded cryptic Valdosta press release yesterday and then explained on the telephone what it meant: Map the two biggest pieces of Valdosta’s wastewater and sewer fixes are operational already.

The press release referred to “the new force main” as if it were already in operation, yet nothing on Valdosta’s website says it is. So I called Tim Carroll and he confirmed that yes, the force main is online. Not only that, but 5 million gallons less water than usual for such rains entered the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

Wait, does that mean the new, uphill, out-of-the-floodplain WWTP is also online? Yes, confirmed Carroll. And the less inflow was due to less INI.

What’s INI, I asked, ignorantly? Continue reading

Details on Valdosta overflows last weekend 2016-04-04

Force main and the new WWTP on line by May!

More extensive overflows than usual last weekend, and now more extensive information about them, in the update Tim Carroll promised, on the City of Valdosta website as City System Impacted by Severe Storms and Regional Watershed. It even starts with schedule details, which say they’re ahead of the schedule I previously posted. This report’s table of overflows has start and stop times and amounts, with the Creeks affected.

It still doesn’t say which river basin they go into. Knights Creek flows into Mud Creek, which goes into the Alapahoochee, Alapaha, and Suwannee Rivers. All the others end up in the Withlacoochee and the Suwannee Rivers. And there are still some unanswered questions. But getting the force main and the new WWTP on line by May is a very good development.

The City of Valdosta is ahead of schedule and plans to bring online nearly $60 million in wastewater system improvements next month. The $35 million Force Main project and the $23 million new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) are both ahead of schedule, and bringing them both online cannot come a day too soon for the city. 

“We are pleased to be in the final stages of construction on both projects. Testing is underway now with full startup expected in late May,” according to Director of Utilities Henry Hicks. “We are also pleased that these projects and other awarded sewer collection system improvement projects underway will resolve all the areas of the city impacted by reoccurring overflows that often follow heavy rains and regional flooding.”

Continue reading

More Valdosta wastewater spills over the weekend; stay tuned 2016-04-04

Update 2016-04-05: Here are the details, and force main and new WWTP on line by May.

Valdosta spilled more wastewater over the weekend, according to Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll, who called just now. The Withlacoochee River is out of its banks, actually up on the property containing the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), but “according to the experts” not going to threaten the plant. “But lines are underwater”.

Water is not even close to the new WWTP currently under construction, according to Carroll. And the new force main project should deal with much of the manhole overflow problem on the west side of Valdosta in the Withlacoochee basin, for example into Sugar Creek.

On the east and southeast, in the Alapaha basin, Continue reading