Tag Archives: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

Request comment deadline extension and public hearings about titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp –Suwannee Riverkeeper to Army Corps 2020-03-19

We urge everyone else to also send the Army Corps a comment letter asking for an extension of the comment deadline and for public hearings.

For more things you can do to oppose this bad mining application, see How to Comment.

[Map: TPM Mine, Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River]
Map: TPM Mine, Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River
in the WWALS map of All Public Landings in the Suwannee River Basin.
The TPM mine is marked in the right center by the highlighted crossed hammers,
due north of the line of four Chemours titanium mines in north Florida.

Below is the text of the letter WWALS just sent to the Corps as a PDF.

March 19, 2020

To: Col. Daniel Hibner, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil,
CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia 31707

Cc: Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division,
Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30334

Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Dear Colonel Hibner,

Regarding permit application SAS-2018-0054 by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, of Birmingham, Alabama, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to extend the public comment period and to hold public hearings, as detailed at the end of this letter.

Review of the current 219-page Application and the hundreds of pages of appendices is not practicable in 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

Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, March 16, 2020 — The coalition of supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp against anything that would harm it stands ready to stop the new strip mine application, same as the old one.

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) of Birmingham, Alabama, in its new application claims its proposed titanium strip mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee Swamp would be on a “reduced mining area,” which is actually 86% of what they proposed last time. They say they want to do a “demonstration” mine.

[Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine]
Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine
PDF

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says, “Let their foot in the door and it will be even harder to get rid of them later. TPM is under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four mines due south in north Florida. Chemours now wants a fifth Florida titanium mine on Trail Ridge. Why would we think TPM would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia? Our Okefenokee Swamp with its fishing, boating, birding, and hunting nearby, is much more important than any mine, especially since it is the headwaters of the Suwannee River and the St Marys River.”

Despite TPM’s assurances, the miners have not proven their mining would not affect the groundwater, the underlying Floridan Aquifer, surface streams, or the Okefenokee Swamp.

Their application form proposes to mine 1041.7 acres, the same size tract as in their application of last year that they retracted in early January of this year. But their actual application says “TPM now wishes to conduct a demonstration mining project for a reduced mining area of approximately 898 acres.”

86% of the original acreage is not much reduced. And how is that just a demonstration?

No doubt you will hear more about that and other problems with the miners’ application from the coalition supporting the Swamp and opposing anything that would harm it. That coalition includes a wide range of organizations, Continue reading

Bad: Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River, to Dowling Park, Suwannee River 2020-02-19

Update 2020-02-21: Very high E. coli on Okapilco feeder creek 2020-02-19.

Florida testing shows the contamination Suzy Hall detected Monday at Knights Ferry on the Withlacoochee River appears to have reached the state line and into Florida the next day, at least as far as Florida 6, which is just upstream from Madison Blue Spring.

The day after, Wednesday, February 18, 2020, levels were above normal but not alarming that far down (other than at the state line), and there was a hot spot at CR 250 (Dowling Park Ramp).

[Downstream into Florida]
Downstream into Florida
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of data from three Florida agencies, WWALS, and Valdosta is on the WWALS website.

As usual, you can help.

Once again, upstream on the Withlacoochee, US 84 and above, Valdosta and WWALS testing Monday showed nothing remotely as high as these downstream results. And my spot check on the feeder creek at US 84 that runs into Okapilco Creek showed nothing out of the ordinary. Which leaves the prime suspect still the Quitman Land Application Site (LAS), which is near Okapilco Creek, south of US 84. And Okapilco Creek runs into the Withlacoochee River between US 84 and Knights Ferry. I have scheduled an appointment to go investigate the Quitman LAS.

Despite leaving messages at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) the past two days, I’ve gotten no response from them. Ironically, the Florida agencies communicate with WWALS Continue reading

Georgia Department of Health can’t or won’t do as much as FDOH 2020-01-07

Georgia Department of Public Health (GA-DPH) was not informed by Valdosta of the December 2019 raw sewage spill; so far as I know, I was the first to tell DPH, as Suwannee Riverkeeper. Lowndes County Environmental Health did then offer free water well testing, for both Lowndes and Brooks Counties, Georgia.

However, DPH itself does not test river water, and was not asked by Valdosta to help advise the public of river contamination. DPH does not have authority to compell Valdosta to test or plant warning signs. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) does have such authority.

This is all in marked contrast to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), which was informed by Valdosta, did put out three sequential warnings, and has been testing the Withlacoochee River. Seems like we need to get some policies or laws changed in Georgia.

[DPH was not notified of Valdosta sewage spill]
DPH was not notified of Valdosta sewage spill

For his speedy and informative response, I’d like to thank Continue reading

Signs in Georgia on Withlacoochee River and new data; thanks Lowndes County and SRWMD 2020-01-10

Update 2020-01-14: Recent water quality test results, Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers 2020-01-11

There are two warning signs at each of Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps as of yesterday: by Lowndes County, and by WWALS. According to new data from Wednesday evening, those signs may not have been necessary, but at this point better safe than sorry. The new data did not come from Valdosta, nor did the signs.

[County and WWALS warning signs]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, County and WWALS warning signs at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, 2020-01-10

Thanks to Lowndes County and Chairman Bill Slaughter for testing at Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps, and for making and planting those tall metal caution signs after the county numbers for Monday, January 6, 2020, were quite high. The county is now doing weekly testing, including at additional locations.

Just in case, WWALS also made signs and placed them. Continue reading

Avoid Withlacoochee River from Knights Ferry to Confluence with Suwannee River 2020-01-08

Update 2020-01-11: Signs in Georgia on Withlacoochee River and new data; thanks Lowndes County and SRWMD 2020-01-10.

It would be prudent to avoid contact with the Withlacoochee River from Knights Ferry Boat Ramp all the way to the Suwannee River, due to test results from Lowndes County, Georgia, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

[Avoid red area]
Avoid red area.
WWALS Map of Landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

The problem access points would seem to include Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Nankin Boat Ramp, and State Line Boat Ramp in Georgia, and in Florida Sullivan Launch, Florida Campsites Ramp, Madison Blue Spring, Madison Boat Ramp, and Allen Ramp on the Withlacoochee River. I believe Hamilton County also has a warning sign upstream on the Suwannee River at Suwannee River Campsites. There’s a sign at Madison Blue Spring, and I’d bet there’s one at Suwannee River State Park Ramp. There will be signs in Georgia today, one way or another.

Here is an excerpt from the latest FDEP data, received this morning. The entire updated FDEP spreadsheet is Continue reading

High E. coli at State Line in FDEP data Monday 2020-01-06

Update 2020-01-10: Avoid Withlacoochee River from Knights Ferry to Confluence with Suwannee River 2020-01-08.

In data received yesterday evening from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), after testing safe for a week, FDEP got 7,576 MPN/100 mL E. coli at GA 31. There are no warning signs at State Line Boat Ramp.

[Dec. 30 - Jan 6]
Dec. 30 – Jan 6

Is that a pocket of Valdosta sewage finally crossing into Florida? Something else big enough to cause those numbers? It’s hard to tell without upstream data, or followup data.

[Sewage dates, Dec. 3 - Jan 6]
Sewage dates, Dec. 3 – Jan 6,
Valdosta to Madison Blue Springs, in WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin, these all on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

Whatever it is, there should be a warning sign at State Line Ramp, which is in Georgia, and there is none. Should Madison and Hamilton Counties, Florida, put up a third warning for the Withlacoochee River in Florida? Just like there should have been warning signs on the Withlacoochee River in Georgia at Continue reading

Valdosta Catch Basin Plans for WWTP 2019-09-01

Here are the plans for the new catch basin at the entrance of Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) (see also PDF), obtained via open records request from Valdosta. At least we finally know how big it is: 7.26 million gallons. But is that big enough?

[FORWARD FLOW SCHEMATIC]
FORWARD FLOW SCHEMATIC

The catch basin is a good idea, and I commend Valdosta on implementing it. However: Continue reading

Florida Sen. Bill Montford hosting Valdosta sewage public meeting in Madison, FL 2020-01-08

Update 2020-01-06: Well testing results, Madison County, FL, after Valdosta sewage spill 2020-01-03.

Florida state Senator Bill Montford has scheduled “a meeting concerning the Valdosta sewage spill issue” this Wednesday afternoon, the same day and before the meeting of the Florida Counties Rivers Task Force with the Valdosta City Council. We have some questions (see below). You probably do too, and you can ask them at one or both of these Wednesday public meetings.

When: 1 PM, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Where: Madison County University of Florida
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Office
184 Northwest College Loop, Madison, FL 32340

Event: facebook

Table, Committee

I have confirmed that this Madison meeting is a public meeting. The venue is small, but that’s no reason for the public not to come.

Sen. Montford held a Continue reading