“We haven’t had any spills. We had the one problem with the new plant, and it was not our fault. …so there’s not going to be another problem.” Mayor John Gayle
Thanks to John Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, for revealing the attitude of the mayor of Valdosta, regarding that city’s numerous sewage spills which contaminate and further pollute the Suwannee River with human waste.
If the people downstream had a problem with the good mayor’s credibility before, it has certainly increased after reading what the mayor says in this article. It would seem that those in Florida who hope for a feces-free Suwannee to enjoy, may have to wait until Mr. Gayle is replaced.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Two citizens spoke about sewage overflows at the Valdosta City Council Thursday 9 March 2017, including about the seven downstream Florida counties passing resolutions calling on the Florida governor to step in. Here are LAKE videos of what they said and the mayor’s answers. Also, George Boston Rhynes told a droll tale about a dead cat and turkeys.
- 7. CTBH – Eric Howard on Stormwater and Wastewater Video. He said he got a house near the river to fish and swim, only to discover wastewater was flooding. Mayor John Gayle offered to answer his questions if he would come to the Mayor’s office.
- 7. CTBH – John Quarterman on Florida Resolutions about wastewater overflows Video. I handed out the Suwannee County resolution, and pointed out I had nothing to do with getting that one passed, nor the ones from the other six downstream counties: I was just collecting them and talking to the Council about them. I pointed out the part on page 2 about:
WHEREAS, yet again, on January 22, 2017, the City of Valdosta had another failure resulting in the release of million gallons of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into the Withlacoochee River which again resulted in the Florida Department of Health issuing public health advisories warning the public of wastewater contamination in the Withlacoochee River and portions of the Historic Suwannee River, which resulted in warnings being posted at all public access areas along the rivers stating that the rivers were not safe for recreational use and every precaution should be taken to avoid any contact with the river; and
I pointed out that people stop using the rivers when they see such warnings, and that’s a serious problem for those counties.
I suggested that if Florida wants to do something, it could institute and pay for regular water quality monitoring up and down the rivers in Florida, not just when there was a spill. I also suggested Valdosta could organize independent third-party water quality monitoring, not even overseen by Valdosta. I was enumerating how many Florida counties had passed resolutions when the Mayor brought down his gavel at three minutes.
The Mayor’s response verbatim:
All right your three minutes are up. I will answer one question. I know this might surprise you, but we are monitoring that situation continuously right now. And all it does is prove that we are right. The water that comes from the north end of the county is dirtier than water that leaves the wastewater treatment plant are. Now, when that water gets to the county, to the state line down there, it’s picked up, as you can imagine, fertilizer, animal feces, and all that. And by the time it gets to the state line it’s dirtier than it is, much dirtier, than when it leaves our plant.
So we’re doing everything we can, John, to make sure that we have all our information correct. We’re monitoring that situation. [inaudble sentence due to someone coughing.] We’ll be glad to furnish you with the facts.
I responded that I understood that, but they were told last summer that the problem had been fixed, and then it wasn’t.
We haven’t had any spills. We had the one problem with the new plant, and it was not our fault. We spent $58 million on that plant, and the people that designed it and built it were at fault and they corrected it, so there’s not going to be another problem.
I told him “I applaud your efforts. I’m just pointing out there’s a credibility problem downstream. I made suggestions…”
They like to blame somebody else, that’s for sure.
I just laughed and said thank you. The mayor concluded:
I did speak to the Mayor afterwards and noted he should welcome Florida doing water quality monitoring, because if he was right it would demonstrate that. He seemed to agree with that point.
- 7. CTBH – George Boston Rhynes – a dead cat and turkeys Video. He said he saw a dead cat on the highway with a circle of turkeys around it like a religious ceremony. He interpreted this as a divine message for us all to get along. He said he came to thank them all for serving on the city council, and he mentioned the stress of office.
I do think it’s rather interesting that just after the Mayor blamed the January 2.2 million gallon WWTP spill on the contractor that he concluded with “They like to blame somebody else, that’s for sure.” Who hired that contractor? Who oversaw that work? Was that not the City of Valdosta?
And what about those three Januray manhole spills, two of which from locations that had spilled before, and one in the Alapaha River watershed, which Valdosta never mentions in its press releases?
Here’s the latest Valdosta press release about this situation that I’ve seen, in which they promise: “The city understands the concerns of some who would have preferred a quicker release of information and commits to making similar information available in the timeliest manner.” That will be an improvement.
Meanwhile, more resolutions are being passed downstream.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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