Tag Archives: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

Help upgrade our Suwannee River Basins in Georgia

We asked the state of Georgia to upgrede our main Suwannee River Basin rivers (and some lakes and swamps) from their current lowest water quality classification as Fishing to what they really are: Recreational Use. You can help!

[Georgia landings in Suwannee River Basin]

Every three years, federal law requires each state to review its water quality standards. 2019 is such a year for Georgia, so the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) is conducting a Triennial Review. The request WWALS sent to GA-EPD, background, and their response are all on the WWALS website. Our request was rather long, with 23 pages asking for reclassification of the Suwannee River, the Okefenokee Swamp, the Alapaha River, Lake Irma, Banks Lake, Grand Bay, the Withlacoochee River, the Little River, and Reed Bingham State Park Lake, all from Fishing to Recreational Use. The WWALS cover letter is included at the end of this blog post. For the rest, see the WWALS website.

The response thus far from GA-EPD has some good news: Continue reading

WCTV on FL Counties Rivers Task Force and Valdosta Wastewater 2019-03-07

It turns out Valdosta can schedule a workshop for elected officials to meet with the Valdosta City Council, as the the dozen downstream Florida counties previously requested.

Local waterways, Protect

Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 7 March 2019, Task force looks to curb Valdosta sewage spills,

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) — Communities continue to push for more prevention of spills at Valdosta’s wastewater treatment system.

Several North Florida counties down the river from Valdosta formed a task force last year to try and protect local waterways. The group is now hoping the states can step in to help.

Priority to protect, Protect

Counties across North Florida and South Georgia are making it a priority to protect the rivers. The task force has passed a Continue reading

The rest of the Valdosta wastewater story at SRWMD 2019-02-12

Valdosta Utilities naturally painted as rosy a picture as possible, and newspapers have limited space, so here is the rest of the story about Valdosta wastewater at the Suwannee River Water Management District board meeting last Tuesday. SRWMD Chair Virginia H. Johns understands the stigma, and Board Member Virginia Sanchez spelled it out:

SRWMD Chair Virginia H. Johns

“You don’t want to swim in a little sewage versus a lot of sewage either. Both of them are bad. A spill is bad.”

Featured in this post, drawing from the WWALS videos of all the relevant speakers, are Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse, who talked about the catch basin Valdosta is digging, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, who filled in many pieces omitted by Valdosta and FDEP, and Hamilton County resident Jim McBrayer, who got the attention of the SRWMD board by saying there was E. coli in his well and SRWMD should know where it came from, plus especially the very participatory SRWMD board, who made it pretty clear to FDEP they wanted data by their next meeting, and they wanted Valdosta to move along in fixing their problems in less than a hundred years.

Let’s not forget Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, who pointed out something Valdosta doesn’t want to hear: it’s the stigma of sewage spills that is the big problem they are causing. For sure we need to find out what the specific health and other effects are of Valdosta sewage and other contamination on river water and nearby wells. But the stigma of Valdosta sewage goes far beyond that.

Darryl Muse, Utilities Director, Valdosta

In the WWALS video, Continue reading

All Sewage Spills GA EPD 2015-2018

Who in Georgia spilled how much sewage where and when? For example, SRWMD board members wanted to know how does Valdosta compare to the rest of Georgia? So that everyone can see, here are all the sewage spills reported to GA-EPD for the calendar years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Atlanta, Valdosta, Thomasville, Macon, Excerpt
Atlanta, Valdosta, Thomasville, Macon, Thunderbolt, and others spilled in late April and early May, 2015.

Depicted here is an excerpt, since all 4,577 rows would be a bit much to show. Follow the link for the entire HTML table.

Valdosta happens to show only a small spill in this excerpt. Or does it? Since when is Valdosta Continue reading

Videos: Valdosta Wastewater at SRWMD Board 2019-02-12

Update 2019-02-18: The rest of the Valdosta wastewater story at SRWMD 2019-02-12.

The most direct interaction by the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) Board that I’ve ever seen, yesterday, when Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse came to explain what Valdosta has done and is doing to stop its sewage spills. Neither the board nor the audience seemed satisfied.

[Movie: Darryl Muse, Utilities Director, Valdosta (1458M)]
Movie: Darryl Muse, Utilities Director, Valdosta (1458M)

Stay tuned for another post about some of what was said. Meanwhile, below are links to each WWALS video of each speaker or agenda item, with a few notes. These WWALS videos are under a Creative Commons Attribution license, which means you can use them, provide you cite the source, which is WWALS. There are a few more pictures on the WWALS website. See also the agenda. For background and data, see: Continue reading

Ashburn, GA, spilled at top of Little River Basin 2019-01-22

Another Georgia city at the top of the Alapaha River Basin seemed to have fixed its problems, yet it spilled again: Ashburn, in Turner County.

2015 through 2019-01-22, Spills
See also table.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) used to know that this Ashburn Airport WPCP and its Hat Creek are in the Alapaha River Basin in the Suwannee River Basin: PUBLIC NOTICE NO. 2017–02 ML JANUARY 20, 2017,

I. NOTICE OF APPLICATION FOR A NATIONAL POLLUTANT DISCHARGE ELIMINATION SYSTEM (NPDES) PERMIT TO DISCHARGE TREATED WASTEWATER INTO WATERS OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA

NPDES permits are valid for a maximum Continue reading

John S. Quarterman: Sewage spills in Georgia affecting Suwannee River basin, Gainesville Sun, 2019-01-31

Online today and in the paper Gainesville Sun this coming Sunday. To paddle the most-affected stretch of the Withlacoochee River, join us this Saturday morning.


A December upsurge of raw sewage spills from the city of Valdosta, Georgia, has a dozen downstream counties organized into a task force, demanding action from Florida state legislators. But what action?

I recommend first getting a grip on the extent of the problem, keeping that picture up to date and then funding fixes.

[Water]
Photo: John S. Quarterman of Sara Jay, Water Temperature, TGroupville Boat Ramp, Little River, 2019-01-06

Valdosta spilled not just twice, but two dozen times in December, totaling more than 6 million gallons of raw sewage. Spills also happened in Tifton, Quitman and Lowndes County, Georgia.

We know this because Continue reading

Rochelle, GA, spills again 2019-01-24

Back in 2015 and 2016, Rochelle, GA had some sewage spill problems, but they appeared fixed. Until March 2018, and then again in November 2018, and twice now in January 2019.

Table, Spills

The January 10, 2019, Rochelle spill seemed almost negligible at 300 gallons of raw sewage. It took GA-EPD several tries even to figure out Continue reading

Sewage spills in the Suwannee River Basin 2015-2018

Update 2019-01-25: Added an HTML table of all spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia since the beginning of 2015.

WWALS Science Committee Chair Tom Potter made this committee report to the WWALS Quarterly Board Meeting of January 2019:

The Science Committee has focused on monitoring sewage spills from Municipalities in the region. The primary data is the online database provide by the GA EPD. The agency regularly compiles spill volume, date, and, location across the state and posts the information on-line.

2015-2018 Valdosta sewage spills, Spills

WWALS played a central role in convincing EPD to provide this data in a timely manner and has regularly posted spill data on the WWALS website, wwals.net/issues/vww/ga-spills/. This a substantial improvement over prior reporting systems and is contributing to timely reporting of conditions that may adversely impact water quality and recreational uses of streams and rivers.

The following graph summarizes reported spill data in Quitman, Tifton and Valdosta and Continue reading

Testing for firefighting chemicals in wells and waterways 2019-01-18

Those firefighting chemicals that leaked from Moody Air Force Base are on the front page of the Valdosta Daily Times today:

Moody recommends private well owners contact their county representatives for information on testing personal wells.

Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer, said this is an opportunity for county residents such as Tann to have their water tested. Not only for PFAS but for any other contaminants that might be there.

Indeed, and Lowndes County operates the Moody AFB wastewater treatment plant that spilled into Beatty Branch and Cat Creek. So it’s an opportunity for Lowndes County to help organize testing for these per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), because testing for them isn’t nearly as simple or inexpensive as testing for other contaminants.

Reporter and photographer at Beatty Branch, 2019-01-07, VDT
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, nearby resident Debra Tann, VDT reporter Thomas Lynn and photographer Derrek Vaughn, at Beatty Branch, January 7, 2019. Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS.

Debra Tann and I were back at Beatty Branch on January 7, 2019, this time with the VDT, about the firefighting chemical issue that was in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the first week of January. This time it was for local reporters. Moody neighbor wants water tested, Continue reading