Marathon Meeting at SRWMD

SRWMDfeb19mmj In: Marathon Meeting at SRWMD | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson speaks to the Valdosta spills issue, and requests water sampling

2019’s February meeting was certainly one of the longer ones.  Two items on the agenda took a lot of discussion, carrying over until after 1 o’clock before the lunch break, after which the meeting continued, followed by the budget meeting.

The first item was the sewage spills from the City of Valdosta, explained at length by a PowerPoint talk, followed by considerable discussion.  Board member Virginia Sanchez asked some hard questions, for which there were no satisfying answers. Interestingly, she called out the Valdosta plan which, if carried out, would take a hundred or more years, or at least a number rendering it totally impractical.

srwmdfeb19mike In: Marathon Meeting at SRWMD | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
OSFR President Mike Roth gives his opinion on Rum Island park.

Even these absurdities did not seem to faze the board until the Florida Dept. of Health representative, backed up by a passionate citizen, began talking about E.coli.

srwmidfeb19scott In: Marathon Meeting at SRWMD | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Steven Scott is a member of Friends of Rum Island Park

This got the attention of the entire board, and the discussion soon moved to testing, at which point RiverKeeper John Quarterman provided  information regarding water testing and sampling.

It turned out that there is no baseline of the norm during non-flooding periods with which to compare samples taken during spills.  In other words, there is such a dearth of information that no one knows if the E. coli is always present or just during spills, or where it comes from, or even if it is from animal or human sources.

srwmdfeb19kirby In: Marathon Meeting at SRWMD | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Kevin Kirby of Colubia Co.

Other than testing to learn more about the pollutants, nothing much else was proffered.  We did learn that much of the wastewater escaping the sewer system of  Valdosta comes not just from rainfall overflow from the treatment plant, but also from the aged, inadequate infrastructure of the street system.  What is the solution?  Valdosta has yet to provide one other than saying they are working on it.

The second item consuming a lot of time was the issue of sanitation facilities at Rum Island park.  The board was charged with voting on issuing a variance to allow toilet structures below flood level.   They eventually did, but not before much discussion on the location of the toilets, and the need for permanent structures instead of Porta-Potties or other portable structures.  Suggestions from informed citizens that well-maintained Porta-Potties were preferable and much cheaper, made no headway, in part because that was not the purview of the board at this time, and Columbia County Assistant County Manager – Operations Kevin Kirby had no interest in pursuing this option.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


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