Tag Archives: Scott James Matheson

Water quality testing grant from Georgia Power 2020-06-27

July 27, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Georgia Power grants funds to WWALS for Water Quality Testing

Hahira, GA, July 27, 2020 — Aiding our attempts to clean up the Withlacoochee River, Georgia Power Foundation has provided a substantial grant to WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (“WWALS”). WWALS will buy more water quality testing kits and supplies with the funds, as well as other expenses related to our volunteer water quality testing program.

“Please accept our most sincere thanks for your recognition and support of WWALS Watershed Coalition and our work for clean, fishable, swimmable, boatable water,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “We look forward to a productive water quality testing program this year.”

“We’re honored to get to help,” said Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest Region Director. “One of our goals is to make sure the people of Georgia know about our great natural resources. And also that they’re safe. And y’all help do that by making awareness around water testing. And you build strong relationships I know now, coordinating with the City of Valdosta, making sure they publish their test results. Everything seems to be working and getting better. We’re on a sharp upward curve of getting better with what we do with water and getting to enjoy it. And my little girl, I’m working for her future, and Georgia Power is. Thank y’all, thank you to the volunteer testers, and the Riverkeeper.”

[Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest District Director]
Photo: WWALS, of Georgia Power Southwest District Director Joe Brownlee, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, and WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall, at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River, near Valdosta, Georgia.

“The response of the Georgia Power grant and Mr. Brownlee’s comments are quite touching (to me) due to the recognition of how difficult it is for a volunteer organization to do biological water testing over a huge area. The grant enables regular testing that can pinpoint multi-source pollution, which requires a varied response. It’s quite gratifying that both individuals and large companies realize this is a complex situation,” said WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr.

“We have several testers already trained, waiting for testing kits. Thanks to Georgia Power, we can buy them kits and get them started testing!” said WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall. “Plus we can buy enough kits to train new testers with physical distancing even during the virus pandemic.”

“We like to think WWALS water quality testing has already done some good, helping warn people when the waterways are contaminated, helping find contamination sources, and encouraging several governmental organizations in Georgia and Florida to test more,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “With these funds from Georgia Power we can do much more. Also thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for introducing us to Joe Brownlee.”

“The more testing, the more we can also check to see whether fixes such as fencing cattle away from waterways are actually working to improve the situation,” said WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter. “Interested governmental, educational, or agricultural organizations please contact us about that.”

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.

WWALS Water Quality Testing is summarized here: http://wwals.net/issues/testing/ Here is a video about this grant: https://youtu.be/zy0N_kRhPfI

Contact: Gretchen Quarterman, Executive Director
WWALS Watershed Coalition
wwalswatershed@gmail.com
850-290-2350
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

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(See also PDF.)

Valdosta holds ground-breaking on WWTP catch basin 2020-07-21

Long-awaited, since December 2018, with GA-EPD permit in hand since December 2019, today was the groundbreaking for the new catch basin at the entrance to Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

[Ground breaking]
Photo: City of Valdosta, Ground breaking

The catch basin probably would have stopped 2/3 of the December 2018 spills. *The other 1/3 in December 2018 was from city infrastructure not acting as designed, unless 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilling from manholes was in that design.

It would not have done anything to stop the record December 2019 raw sewage spill, which resulted from the Remer Lane Pump Station being left offline and disconnected from the SCADA system.

However, some of the other projects mentioned in the below Valdosta press release may help with both those 2018 and 2019 other problems. It’s good to see Valdosta moving ahead to fix its chronic sewer system infrastructure problems.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2020
Release #07-21-104

City Breaks Ground on 7.26 Million-Gallon Equalization Basin at Withlacoochee WWTP

On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, The City of Valdosta broke ground on the new Equalization (EG) Basin located at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The new secondary basin will provide more than double the available storage for extended periods of operation at the peak hourly flow thereby reducing the potential for overflows at the Plant. The Project includes a lined 7.26 MG excavated Basin, a new pump station, and an associated gravity pipe and force main.

Since its start-up in 2016, 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

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 -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

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

Withlacoochee, Suwannee good, Okapilco Creek bad water quality 2020-01-18

Update 2020-01-23: Okapilco Creek better, Withlacoochee still clean 2020-01-22.

The good news: Gretchen Quarterman’s test results from the Mayor’s Paddle Saturday were clean.

[Gretchen Quarterman testing during Mayor's Paddle (Suzy Hall)]
Photo: Suzy Hall, of Gretchen Quarterman testing during Mayor’s Paddle 2020-01-18

The Withlacoochee River tested clean all the way from the state line to the Suwannee, and the Suwannee River clean all the way to US 250, on Friday, January 17, 2020, according to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). But somebody (Valdosta?) needs to pay for the well and river testing incurred to date from that record-largest Valdosta raw sewage spill of December 2019. And we need ongoing regular, closely spaced, water quality testing, and sources of funding (Valdosta?) for that, for at least two reasons detailed below.

Maybe you’d like to come talk about that at the Florida Rivers Task Force meeting 4PM today at the Holiday Inn, 213 SW Commerce Blvd, Lake City, FL, or at the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC) meeting at 7PM, same location.

Or you can speak in Citizens To Be Heard at the end of the Valdosta City Council meeting, 5:30 PM today, Valdosta City Hall, 216 E. Central Ave., Valdosta, GA.

[Clean rivers 2020-01-15-18]
Clean rivers 2020-01-15-18
The entire composite spreadsheet by WWALS is on the WWALS website, along with the recent data from Lowndes County and Florida.

The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) projection reported by WCJB on Thursday that Valdosta sewage had reached the Suwannee River fortunately proved not to come to pass. Cleaner Friday than Thursday, by results from WWALS, Lowndes County (which has its own sewer system that did not spill), and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Valdosta did not test on any weekdays last week, even though their Mayor was scheduled to paddle.

The difficulty of projecting river flows is one reason continual testing is the only way to be sure what’s in our rivers.

What’s in Okapilco Creek?

The interesting news: Lowndes County found high E. coli on Okapilco Creek south of Continue reading

News coverage, Mayor’s Paddle, and Task Force meeting Thursday in Lake City

People from Brooks County, Lowndes County, Valdosta, Madison County, and SRWMD paddled with new Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson down the Withlacoochee River. For the first time, we got not one but two reporters in a boat. The media got most of the point of that stretch at least was cleaner, the Withlacoochee is well worth protecting, and there is much more to be done. The Florida counties Task Force about Valdosta wastewater meets tomorrow, Thursday, at 4PM in Lake City; its Chair, Rick Davis of Madison County, paddled and was quoted in news stories.

Photo: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, of Valdosta Mayor Scott James and Florida Task Force Chair Rick Davis on the Withlacoochee River with WWALS
Photo: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, of Valdosta Mayor Scott James and Florida Task Force Chair Rick Davis on the Withlacoochee River with WWALS.

Good and rather extensive coverage of the Mayor’s Paddle WWALS organized Saturday, January 18, 2020, is linked into the WWALS Valdosta Spills web page (scroll down), and the WWALS News web page. Here are some highlights. Continue reading