Category Archives: Health

Bike and Paddle Suwannee River, Hal W. Adams Bridge, 2020-08-29

Bicycles and boats! There’s no shuttle, because we get from the takeout to the put-in on bicycles, on this Suwannee River paddle, with optional river camping.

[Paddle Map: WWALS SRWT]
Paddle Map: WWALS map of Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT)

Meet at Hal W. Adams Bridge, unload boats and gear. We will have a designated person watch the boasts and gear.

Drive cars to Hardenbergh Public Boat Ramp. Bike about 30 minutes back along CR 354 to Hal W. Adams Bridge, secure bikes, launch boats, paddle to Telford Springs, and cool off a bit.

Paddle to Peacock Slough River Camp. Camp overnight (or paddle through). Call Suwannee River Wilderness Trail for reservations at 800-868-9914.

We can rest at Cow Springs and pass Drew Bridge for historical site and take out at Hardenbergh Bridge.

This outing eliminates putting people at COVID-19 risk by removing the need to shuttle. We will be able to maintain social distancing while paddling and biking.

When: Gather 9 AM, launch 10 AM, Saturday, August 29, 2020

Bring: a bicycle, and the usual personal flotation device, boat paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. If you’re going to camp, bring camping gear. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Boats: Kayaks and maybe canoes are available to borrow but please let us know at least 2 days prior to the event. Bring your own if you have it.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!

Put In: Hal W. Adams Bridge Ramp, From Mayo, Continue reading

Ask Gov. DeSantis to veto M-CORES from the budget 2020-06-05

Please write today, something like this:


To: Governor Ron DeSantis <governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com>
Subject: Please redirect M-CORES toll roads funds to critical state needs

Please wield your veto pen to remove from the budget the $90 million dedicated to M-CORES.

Signed, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper


Back in April, WWALS sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis asking him to repurpose toll road funds and we asked you to do that, too.

On June 5, 2020, eighty organizations including WWALS wrote to Gov. DeSantis requesting the same, as you can see below.

Now the Florida state budget is on his desk, so he has an opportunity to do this. Please help. Contact the Governor today.

No Roads to Ruin Letter June 5, 2020

Continue reading

Avoid sewage spills: no wipes in the pipes 2020-05-06

Nobody wants any more sewage spills because of Fats Oils and Grease (FOG) or blue gloves or sanitary wipes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[Pumper on Cherry Creek Church Road]
Pumper on Cherry Creek Church Road

Valdosta Utilities apparently cleaned up this one in April off of Bemiss Road before it could get into Cherry Creek, since the bacterial sample I took showed very little E. coli. Here’s a Valdosta press release and video on how to prevent such spills.

City issues reminder: “No wipes in the pipes”

The City of Valdosta is asking residents to avoid flushing sanitation wipes even if the package states they are flushable! Paper towels and facial tissues also should not be flushed in local sewer lines as people practice guidelines to combat the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. While the “flushable” wipes concern is not new to wastewater facilities, there is an increased risk to our system recently. 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

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

Florida and Georgia Boat Ramps Status 2020-04-09

Yes, you can boat, fish, and swim on rivers and lakes during the stay-home period, in both Florida and Georgia, as long as you keep your distance. Don’t gather in large groups unless you want your favorite river or lake access to get closed, not to mention unless you want to get or transmit the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, for which there is no vaccine. Stay six feet apart, no large groups (usually no more than 10), and on the water stay at least 10 feet apart or 50 feet apart in Florida.

Below is a snapshot of conditions today. Check on your local park or ramp or launch before going for current conditions.

Also check on bacterial conditions, especially since last night’s rain.

Florida

Here’s a handy map that shows status of Florida boat ramps and launches. Red means closed. Blue means open.

[Florida]
Florida

Tony Acevedo, SaltStrong, 31 March 2020, This Map Shows Which Boat Ramps Are Closed & Which Are Open, Continue reading

Cancelled: Florida Counties Task Force meeting with Valdosta City Council 2020-04-08

The meeting of the Valdosta City Council with the Florida Rivers Task Force scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled, according to Task Force Chair Rick Davis just now via telephone.

January announcment of April Task Force meeting

This meeting never actually appeared on Continue reading

Repurpose toll road funds for virus relief

Update 2020-04-16: Videos: No Build: Fire and Traffic at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11.

Here’s an idea from WWALS member Janet Mikulski Messcher.

To: Governor Ron DeSantis
GovernorRon.Desantis@eog.myflorida.com
800-342-3557

Dear Governor DeSantis,

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please seek ways to shift funding from unnecessary and destructive projects to those that support our current public and community health needs. In particular, the M-CORES legislation, passed in the 2019 session, includes money for the task force process and for construction of three destructive tollroads. There is significant public opposition to these roads which have not been proven to be necessary nor economically viable. Attention should be focused on supporting our public health, including additional testing and research to support development of a vaccine.

If the Legislature returns to Tallahassee for a special session to address the budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend that the House and Senate budget leaders consider diverting the $135 million (FY 2019/20 and FY 2020/21) earmarked from the M-CORES tollroads to go to pandemic response efforts and other community health priorities.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Please share this post and send in your letters. Feel free to copy your M-CORES Task Force members.

Photo: Bill Galvano, President, Florida Senate, Twitter, 17 May 2019.
Photo: Bill Galvano, President, Florida Senate, Twitter, 17 May 2019.

Here are more videos from the Madison County meeting of February 11, 2020, continuing the series that I started yesterday. I do not know whether these speakers support repurposing the funds as above, but Florida Conservation Voters was among the 90 organizations that asked Gov. DeSantis to veto the toll roads bill, as part of the No Toll Roads to Ruin coalition.

Lindsay Cross of Florida Conservation Voters asked the M-CORES Task Force to consider community vision instead of the toll road vision foisted on all of us by a few people in Tallahassee.

The Mayor of Monticello, Troy Avera, had been trying to sit on the fence, but he really doesn’t like a bypass, which would starve his city.