Valdosta famous for wastewater in rivers all the way to the Gulf

The VDT had a small front page headline yesterday: “Floridians warned about river contamination”. That story was also heard in Florida, in Madison, Gainesville, and elsewhere, emphasizing something that Valdosta didn’t mention: people live downstream of Valdosta’s wastewater spill, all the way down the Withlacoochee and the Suwannee Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. The story also made the AJC.

Green Publishing, Inc, which covers Madison, Lee, and Greenville, Florida, reported yesterday, ALERT: FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH WARNS OF POSSIBLE WASTEWATER CONTAMINATION: GA wastewater plan overflow may impact Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers.

TALLAHASSEE- The Florida Department of Health (DOH) today issued a caution to residents in the counties surrounding the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. The Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant in Valdosta, GA has overflowed into the Withlacoochee River, which flows south, connecting with the Suwannee River.

Other news venues carrying the story:

  • Citrus Daily, Citrus County, which I think is on the other Withlacoochee River in Florida, but Levy County is on the Suwannee, Levy among Florida counties affected by Georgia wastewater pollution,

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is scheduled to collect water samples from the area, and the testing results will be available within the next week.

    Until further information is known regarding possible contamination of the rivers, citizens are urged to avoid contact with the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. This includes those individuals in the counties of Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, and Suwannee counties.

  • Dixie County Advocate, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH WARNS OF POSSIBLE WASTEWATER CONTAMINATION ~GA wastewater plan overflow may impact Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers~
    Water contaminated by wastewater overflow presents several health hazards to humans and may contain untreated human sewage with microbes that could cause gastro-intestinal and other diseases.
  • GTN News in Gainesville, which isn’t even on any of these rivers, Contaminated River Water,

    There’s something foul in the water. Valdosta city officials say flooding in South Georgia forced over five million gallons of contaminated water into the Withlacoochee River. GTN’s Ashley Alvarez shows us how this will affect North Central Florida….

    “Diarrhea, fever and basically if you get in contact with the water— doesn’t matter, if in this you get in contact with the river— is you wanna shower. Wash yourself with soap and water. It all depends on the bacteria. When you deal with raw sewage you have many different types of bacteria. There are some bacteria out there that all it takes is one little cell to make you deathly ill.” said Mitchell.

  • Suwannee Democrat, Rivers flooding update, March 4, 7:15 p.m.

    The Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant in Valdosta, GA has overflowed causing 5—6 million gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Withlacoochee River, which flows south, connecting with the Suwannee River….

    If you have been in contact with the river water, DOH urges you to wash your hands thoroughly before eating or drinking. Children and elderly as well as people with depressed immune systems are particularly vulnerable to disease so every precaution should be taken to avoid the river water.

    As a precautionary measure if residents within the immediate area feel their water has been contaminated or the water quality has changed they should boil their water for a minimum of 1 minute on a full rolling boil.

    If you have any questions please feel free to contact Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office ~ Division of Emergency Management at 386.364.3405.

  • Kyla Ryan reported for WCJB-TV, Gainesville, Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers Contaminated,
    For more information from the Suwannee River Water Management District, please visit here.
  • Police, Chiefland, Levy County, FL, State warns Tri-County Area: Beware of river contamination; Wastewater plant’s overflow may impact Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers.
  • AJC, Atlanta, Residents cautioned with wastewater contamination.

Valdosta’s press release, Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant Fully Operational, said:

The Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant flooded in its current location in the unincorporated area of Lowndes County, which is at the bottom of a 1,500 square mile drainage basin and the source of most of the flood waters received at the plant and throughout the city.

That’s a very Valdosta-centric way of looking at it. The watersheds that go through Valdosta also extend through the south half of Lowndes County into Madison County and Hamilton County Florida. What Valdosta surges up out of Valdosta manholes runs into the Withlacoochee on the west side of town and the Alapaha on the east side of town. Now the east side may have been less affected because apparently Valdosta’s Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant has already been upgraded and didn’t have a problem this flood.

But as we’ve all heard lately, Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant was not operational during the flood and, as WCTV in Tallahassee reminded us, waste was bubbling up manholes and out into people’s back yards and into the streams going into the Withlacoochee River. Valdosta’s PR also said:

The city’s drinking water supply is in no way affected by the recent flood event.

That may be true, but what about the drinking water supplies of people downstream? What about their backyards? What about the fish and the wildlife?

I’m all for Valdosta getting funding to fix its wastewater problems. But it might get more help if it didn’t act like the world ended downstream of Valdosta and things upstream only matter because they flow down to Valdosta.