Valdosta has been blamed many times in recent years for wastewater spills which head downstream to Florida. Just recently a new water treatment system was put into place, which has worked well except for a couple of human error slip ups. It was also seen that some of the bacterial contamination going into the river was likely from horse farms upstream from Valdosta, and not from the water treatment plant.
The latest spill, described below, was simply a case of inability to handle the volume of input, indicating the plant was not designed to handle what was needed.
There are just too many problems with the Valdosta water treatment plant. For all their efforts, the result is that we continue to have spills into the river.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Spill In Valdosta Due to Heavy Rains
Published on behalf of the City of Valdosta
Over the weekend, the City of Valdosta and surrounding areas received more than 11 inches of rain during a storm event. During the storm, city infrastructure operated as designed. The Withlacoochee Plant is designed to have a normal capacity of 13.5 million gallon (MG) per day with a peak average flow of 22.5 MG per day. In addition to that capacity the city has also installed a surge tank to accept additional flows. As a result of unprecedented rainfall into the plant, the structures were overwhelmed. The current system has four processing units, although during normal operations the system only requires one. During this storm event, the Withlacoochee Plant was running all four units plus the excess flow equalization basin.
On December 2, at approximately 6 p.m., the City of Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant identified a sewage spill. The spill was caused by the large amounts of rainfall received within a 24-hour period, which resulted in stormwater infiltration and inflow entering the sanitary sewer system and exceeding the capacity of the system.
During the storm the water spilled onto the city plant property, which is located over one and a half miles away from the banks of the Withlacoochee River, as well as into a nearby waterway. While the WWTP has a normal average daily flow of 3.5 million gallons (MG), this past weekend, the influent flow peaked at more than 32 MG—ten times the normal rate. Unfortunately, we will not be able to get an accurate number of gallons spilled until the water recedes from the plant.
Sewer spills are not acceptable at any time. It has been the city’s top priority to prevent them all through the construction of the new WWTP and the Force Main, as well as the Lift Station Rehab Program, Smoke Testing Program, Annual Manhole Rehab Program, and the ongoing River Sampling Program that tests waters before, during and after major rain events.
The city continues its ongoing efforts to improve the infrastructure of the sewer system to eliminate these issues in the future. Improving our sewer system has and will continue to be a main priority. For more information, contact the Utilities Department Environmental Manager Scott Fowler at 229-259-3592 or [email protected].