Circular wastewater firing squad continues

The VDT's Sunday front page was covered with wastewater stories, continuing the circular firing squad of the local powers that be. Meanwhile in Dublin, GA, they're breaking ground for solar panels at the local high school, using a bond financing model that we could use here, if local leaders would look up.

In addition to some detail about the city's FEMA application and following up on flooded yards, the VDT followed up on its EPD and EPA scrutiny story with one saying City received help from EPD to keep EPA away. It's good the VDT is covering these issues, but it's still leaving out important parts of the local water story.

Apparently firing back at Thursday's Valdosta City Council session, perhaps especially Robert Yost's very pointed criticisms of the VDT, the VDT concluded its rather rich Sunday editoral:

City leaders, please, no more of the blame game. The citizens of this community are imploring you to just accept responsibility and fix it.

Yet the VDT has spent the last week blaming the city, and has accepted no responsibility for its own role, or that of its editor, Kay Harris, in the recent loss of the SPLOST referendum that would have further funded wastewater work in Valdosta.

Now, I agree with the VDT that it seems like more could have been done to prevent yet another flooding problem. And I especially agree with the letter in the VDT from Jerome Tucker that people downstream should be considered more. I bet people all the way to the Gulf think that. However, Yost at least admitted he was wrong to think that a 100 year flood wouldn't happen again in four years. Perhaps I missed where the VDT admitted it was wrong to say that the city hadn't done much of anything since 2009.

It's time for local leaders, including Yost and the VDT, to get serious about climate change. Despite the recent rains, we're still in a protracted drought that isn't likely to get better. Already, three of the top four most expensive U.S. weather disasters ever have been the droughts of 1980, 1988, and 2012. And three of the top six were hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Andrew. We're not on the coast so we don't have to worry about being completely flooded like Savannah and Jacksonville, but obviously we have flood issues here that we need to address, plus drought issues (pine beetles, failed crops, etc.) that affect our biggest economic sector: agriculture. We can do our part to slow climate change by getting on with solar and wind energy. It’s great that the City of Valdosta recently approved more solar panels at its other wastewater treatment plant. Maybe Valdosta and Lowndes County can move ahead with solar high schools like in Dublin.

And nobody here seems to be addressing the sinkhole issue in our Floridan Aquifer. Will we wait until somebody here gets pulled into a sinkhole under their house?

If we get a hurricane this year, we could easily have another "100 year" flood this year. Or maybe not even a hurricane. That 700 year flood in 2009 did not come from a 700 year rain, nor did the flood last week. We're still way behind our formerly normal rainfall. Our local watersheds have been so damaged by clearcutting, invasive species, and development without adequate regard for hydrology that it doesn't take much rain to cause a serious flood. Like Gabe Fisher said about the manhole in his back yard, "Sometimes all it takes is a heavy rain".

Perhaps all the local leaders could start paying attention to bigger pictures of local water issues, which extend far upstream and downstream of Valdosta.