Tag Archives: Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson

Two thirds of SRWMD Board half there 2019-09-18

It was surprisingly interactive meeting, with the Board members repeatedly questioning staff about multiple projects, sometimes taking up points raised from the audience. One Board Member even stopped a project. Yet half the rump board was not visible, being on the telephone, and the Budget Public Hearing may or may not have been legal.

Nestlé Water Withdrawal Permits

At the rescheduled September SRWMD Board meeting, OSFR President Mike Roth questioned the validity of the permitting process for Nestlé’s proposed 1.2 million gallon per day water withdrawal from Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, since the actual application is from Seven Springs, which proposes to sell the water to Nestlé, which is not a use authorized by Florida Statutes.

[OSFR President]
OSFR President

I seconded that, and added that the SRWMD Board should revisit Nestlé’s permit for water withdrawal at Madison Blue Springs on the Withlacoochee River, since Florida Statutes to authorize them to do that.

You can comment to SRWMD about Nestlé’s permits.

Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman
Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman

Afterwards, SRWMD’s Tom Mirti told me the $70,000 contract with SRWMD for Nestlé to support springs water quality monitoring is required by the Nestlé permit for Madison Blue Spring, even though it has to be negotiated separately. Apparently yet another open records request is needed.

Invisible and Missing Board Members

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Videos: Valdosta and Florida Counties about sewage 2019-07-10

Congenial yet sometimes testy, the Florida counties meeting Valdosta about sewage again last night.

The Valdosta catch basin many Floridians thought would be finished by now? Probably by December.

That report the Utilities Manager last time said explained why 8 or 10 million gallons was big enough for a catch basin? No, it doesn’t explain that. Fortunately, Georgia EPD wants to know how many gallons will be needed for how much rain, and apparently won’t issue a permit for the catch basin until there are answers, so maybe we’ll finally find out.

GA-EPD also wanted to know what if the catch basin fills up? Valdosta’s answer: tanker trucks to ship the sewage from the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Or the other direction, if needed. That sounds like a fine idea. Although it doesn’t address the question of what if the heavy rains fall directly on Valdosta and both WTPs fill up.

Meanwhile, the catch basin is just one of a combination of fixes, mostly intended to alleviate infiltration of stormwater into the sewer system, and about 25% of those are done, says Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber.

Will all these projects be finished this year? No.

Floridians offer to get national elected officials to help.

Floridians also emphasized Ecotourism, and asked me to talk about the 350 people who just came through on Paddle Georgia (#PaddleGA2019), the WWALS Boomerang paddle race from Florida to Georgia and back, and the proposed River Camp at the Little River Confluence west of Valdosta, like the ones on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Valdosta Mayor John Gayle wrote down the date of the WWALS Boomerang (October 26th), and afterwards both Hamilton and Madison Counties promised to help.

Tom Mirti of SRWMD described Florida water quality testing, but didn’t mention that FDEP’s monthly testing isn’t made public until four months later. He did mention that FDEP is now testing for sucralose. Merrillee Malwwitz-Jipson, who requested that, was sitting right there. Thanks to her and Jim Tatum for coming from Florida to this meeting.

Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber said Valdosta was still testing at the state line, which caused me to ask why I didn’t get any results for those locations this year in response to open records requests, then? Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse said that was because they haven’t actually tested at the state line this year. He also complained that he had staff working 100 hours a week. Which makes me wonder whether the city of Valdosta is really giving him what he needs, or whether he hasn’t asked for everything he needs.

Anyway, people were rightly impressed with how much Valdosta has done and with their current plans. However, there is still room for improvement.

Below are Continue reading

Videos: toll road planning –E.D. Scott R. Koons & Ken Cornell @ NCFRPC 2019-05-23

Last Thursday, NCFRPC E.D. Scott R. Koons noted that Appointments to the task forces for each of the toll road corridors would start soon. Among the types of representatives that are supposed to be appointed, are environmental organizations (two of those listed in the bill are on record opposing it).

[Scott R. Koons, E.D., NCFRPC]
Scott R. Koons, E.D., NCFRPC

Koons also discussed approved funding for a hurricane evacuation study. Why, you may wonder, was the toll road bill, supposedly largely about hurricane evacuation, passed before that study was even started?

Ken Cornell of Alachua County noted “There’s a lot of election cycles before this is going to be done.” Indeed, a new governor could decline to implement this toll road boondoggle, and if enough elected officials on the task forces oppose it, that might even stop it. He also said:

[Planning, Ken Cornell, Alachua County]
Planning, Ken Cornell, Alachua County

Cornell asked for new Executive Committee members to get together before the next Council meeting,

So we can have some discussions at this Council like what we’re doing for Valdosta, and have a united front. Alachua County and I know many others will stand in support of this issue.

Suwannee Riverkeeper stands in support of the counties opposed to the toll roads.

Below are the WWALS videos from that North Central Florida Regional Planning Council meeting in Lake City, FL, with more details. Continue reading

Citizens for water against toll roads @ NCFRPC 2019-05-23

Update 2019-05-28: See also Videos: toll road planning –E.D. Scott R. Koons & Ken Cornell @ NCFRPC 2019-05-23.

Eight citizens from across the region spoke Thursday against the toll road boondoggle, at the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council meeting in Lake City, FL.

Below are links to each WWALS video of each speaker, followed by a WWALS video playlist.

See also Continue reading

Videos: Florida Counties meet Valdosta about sewage in rivers and wells 2019-04-10

Update 2019-04-13: Added Task Force Resolution.

Everyone in the dozen downstream Florida counties wants to help Valdosta finish fixing its sewage problems, and all were impressed with the thoroughness of the presentations by Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse. There was even an offer to contact federal representatives and agencies from the elephant in the room, Ken Cornell of Alachua County, which contains half the population of the dozen Task Force Counties (and twice the population of Valdosta and Lowndes County),

[Ken Cornell, Alachua County, offers assistance]
Ken Cornell, Alachua County, offers assistance

Mayor John Gayle said “Valdosta is privileged to be a regional city”, serving eighteen counties and benefitting from sales taxes of all those who shop in Valdosta, and later offered assurances that Valdosta was doing everything it could.

[Assurances --Mayor John Gayle]
Assurances –Mayor John Gayle

They could answer the question from Beth Burnham of Hamilton County about reporting times: less than 24 hours to the state of Georgia.

[Hamilton County Commission District 1 Beth Burnham]
Hamilton County Commission District 1 Beth Burnham

Nonetheless Continue reading

Waterkeepers in Tallahassee 2019-03-13

Three of the Waterkeepers of Florida were at the Capitol in Tallahassee Wednesday, two of them for Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All, an annual event organized by ReThink Energy Florida and others. Of course Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) was prominently represented. Banning fracking was top of the long list of issues on the agenda. Water Quality and Quantity included Valdosta (and other) wastewater.

[Speaking]
Speaking

Lake Worth Waterkeeper Reinaldo Diaz advocates for the Lake Worth Lagoon and its watershed, a coastal estuary running along the eastern edge of Palm Beach County.

[Lisa Rinaman et al.]
Lisa Rinaman et al.

Scariest of all to polluters is St Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, seen here with Continue reading

Monthly Florida bacterial monitoring 2019-02-21

Two weeks ago, WWALS member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson asked the state of Florida what baseline water quality testing had been done downstream of Valdota, and:

Please begin water samplings for the isotope for sucralose, fecal coliform testing and any other water testing establishing what or who is culpable of contamination in our protected, Outstanding Florida Waterways.

Yesterday she got an answer. She agrees with my assessment of the data supplied: “Sparse locations and only monthly, but better than nothing.”

[DEAR bacterial monthly sampling stations]
DEAR bacterial monthly sampling stations

However, how can the state of Florida be “committed to monitoring and stopping this recurring problem.” when they “do not allow for enforcement actions directed at the source of sanitary sewer overflows, nor for routine water quality surveillance for sources of river water contamination”?

Now it’s true that last restriction was only cited as applying to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), not the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration (DEAR), and not to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD). But which of this alphabet soup of agencies should be doing “routine water quality surveillance for sources of river water contamination”?

The beginning of the final paragraph of the response does not indicate any intention 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

Anyone who understands fracking opposes it 2015-05-12

This popular meme has lacked any indication of who wrote those words. Words that are relevant right now, when we need you all to support Florida SB 314 to ban fracking.

Now with authors, Meme

Here are the authors of those words: Jim Tatum and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Pensacola News-Journal, online 11 May 2015, on paper the next day, Anyone who understands fracking opposes it,

Anyone who understands fracking is opposed to it. If they understand it but still support it, then they must be gaining profit from it. There is no “gray area” with fracking. There is nothing good about it. There is no such thing as safe fracking.

Rotated, Op-Ed

Millions of gallons are used for each and every frack, polluted Continue reading

Wastewater at Valdosta City Council, Winter 2018-2019

While the Rivers Task Force of the dozen downstream Florida counties is looking for something to do to help, Valdosta clearly hasn’t yet done enough to stop its sewage spills, but they are doing more. Here’s some context that may indicate what might help. Spoiler: water quality monitoring, funding for further fixes, and enforcement if necessary. Unless raw sewage spills really are what Valdosta wants to be known for in Tallahassee and Atlanta.

Totals, Table
See Valdosta December 2018 sewage and Hamilton County, FL legislative delegation 2019-01-16″>

Also: come on up and talk to the Valdosta City Council. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson did, and it got their attention. They keep hearing from me for years now, and it helps to see somebody directly affected downstream come up and speak.

This post is mostly about two Valdosta City Council meetings, that included much discussion of the recent Valdosta wastewater spills, on on Continue reading