Update 2018-09-03: The WCTV report and the text of the letter establishing the Middle and Lower Suwannee River and Withlacoochee River Task Force.
On WCTV tonight, Emma Wheeler will report about wastewater, Valdosta, and how at least eight downstream counties in Florida are organizing about it. She asked me for suggestions. My suggestions start with: sign a resolution asking GA-EPD to timely publish spill reports, and help WWALS with its new water quality testing program. And the Florida Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) could have more effect on the Suwannee River Basin than sewage.
Plus let’s not forget the Tour of Valdosta wastewater treatment plants 9AM tomorrow morning, October 3, the WWALS Troupville Boat Ramp Cleanup October 13, the WWALS Boomerang paddle race November 3 from Langdale Park Boat Ramp to Sugar Creek and back, and 300 of our closest friends coming to the Withlacoochee River mid-June 2019 in Paddle Georgia.
The resolution asks the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) to do what Florida and Alabama already do: publish pollution spill reports online the same day they receive them, with signup for email notices. The first step in fixing pollution is knowing when it happens. GA-EPD publishing spill reports would stop the continual back-and-forth with Valdosta (which spilled twice in March that nobody knew about), Lowndes County (which spilled twice in July that nobody knew about), and Tifton (which had spills in May and June).
My second recommendation is to assist with the new WWALS water quality testing program. Emma Wheeler and I were standing at Hagen Bridge at GA 122 on the Withlacoochee River, miles upstream from Valdosta. Yet eight months of Valdosta weekly testing data WWALS got through an open records request shows that this river often has more fecal coliform upstream of Valdosta than downstream.
You don’t want to be swimming or fishing when that excrement indicator is higher than the state limit, which it sometimes is in the summer. Plus, if it’s in the river, river water exchanges with groundwater, and it could come up in your well.
It could be coming from livestock, wildlife, pets, septic tanks, Adel, Tifton, or elsewhere. The only way to find out is regular, frequent, testing along the river, both upstream like here, and downstream all the way to the Gulf.
Also, Georgia last year issued a lead warning for part of the Withlacoochee River, and for two creeks that run into the Suwannee River. Only testing will find out where that’s coming from.
Once we know the source or sources, we (all of us) may be able to do something about it.
If you want to help with water quality testing, please sign up with Water Reporter and join the Suwannee Riverkeeper group. We are working on quarterly training for chemical and bacterial monitoring, for both Georgia and Florida, such as we did in mid-September. But you don’t have to be trained to start reporting through Water Reporter pictures and text of odd colors, algae blooms, deadfalls, invasive species, and anything else unusual you see while paddling, swimming, or diving.
The Resolution; see also PDF
You can sign your organization on by the end of October 2018 using this google form.
We plan to send this resolution to GA-EPD by the first of November.
Requesting the Georgia
Environmental Protection Division
to Timely Publish Pollution Spill Reports
WHEREAS, clean water is a basic right of all Georgia citizens and a basic mission of the Georgia Water Coalition and all its partners; and
WHEREAS, pollution spills unknown to the public could represent public health hazards; and
WHEREAS, pollution spills unknown to the public cannot trigger further water quality monitoring by entities such as Georgia Water Coalition partners to detect public health hazards and other potential effects; and
WHEREAS, there are thousands of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for entities in the state of Georgia; and
WHEREAS, that is too many permit holders for it to be practical for any private entity to poll all of them for spill reports, even weekly, much less daily, even in a single watershed; and
WHEREAS, Georgia NPDES permits require the permit holders to timely inform the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) of spills at least of certain sizes; and
WHEREAS, the GA-EPD has received more than four thousand reports of pollution spills since the beginning of the year 2015; and
WHEREAS, many of those spills are below permit thresholds requiring public notification; and
WHEREAS, many if not most of those spills have not been reported to the public; and
WHEREAS, it is in the public interest for the public to know of point sources of pollution in our waters; and
WHEREAS, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) publishes spill reports on its website the same day it receives them, in a spreadsheet, with signup for email alerts, plus an online interactive map of spills for the past thirty days; see prodenv.dep.state.fl.us/DepPNP/reports/viewIncidentDetails; and
WHEREAS, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) provides online signup for email alerts of spills the same day ADEM receives them; see adem.alabama.gov; and
WHEREAS, the Atlanta office of GA-EPD will return a spreadsheet of spills it has received in responseto a Georgia Open Records Act (GORA) request; see http://wwals.net/?p=45934; and
WHEREAS, publishing that spreadsheet or one like it daily should require little extra work or expense by GA-EPD while providing great value to the public; and
WHEREAS, adding an email notification system should be possible and not difficult, for example by slight adaptation of how either Florida or Alabama does it; and
WHEREAS, both Florida and Alabama started publishing spill reports the same day they receive them without or before any law was passed requiring such action; and
WHEREAS, nonetheless the eventual Florida Statute 403.077 could be of use as a model; see http://wwals.net/?p=37541; and
WHEREAS, customer satisfaction of GA-EPD’s most basic and populous customers, the people of Georgia, would benefit by GA-EPD deciding to publish spill reports the same day it receives them; and
WHEREAS, there is great concern downstream in Florida about Georgia spills, especially that Georgia permit holders are not informing the public of all spills; and;
WHEREAS, timely spill publication by GA-EPD would also be of great benefit to the people of the neighboring state of Florida;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the undersigned organizations request the Georgia Environmental Protection Division:
- To publish spill reports the same day it receives them, online, on its website, in a spreadsheet, and;
- To provide online email signup for receipt of alerts of spills the same day they occur, and;
- To consider, without delaying 1 and 2 above, adding an online interactive map of recent spills.
PASSED AND ADOPTED BY THE UNDERSIGNED ORGANIZATIONS, this _________ day of October 2018 or on a date as noted by an individual signature.