On Wed. Oct.3, OSFR participated in a tour of the Valdosta water treatment plant requested by board member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, and organized and executed by WWALS Watershed Coalition member and Suwannee RiverKeeper John Quarterman. The water plant has long been the center of controversy over sewage spills into nearby creeks that end up in the Suwannee River. There have been around 50 spills in the past few years, prompting at one time a joint meeting between the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and officials from Valdosta. The new plant, recently completed, gave hope but the spills continue.
Huge reserve holding tank measures 230′ across and is 22′ deep.
Mixer tanks reduce the sludge
The older Mud Creek facility building
Fumes attack unpainted surfaces
Spills occurred in June and August of this year. According to the water plant authorities, neither involved raw sewage, although one was allowed to continue for over three hours when it should have been shut down immediately. These spills were attributed to equipment failure in one case, and a clogged grating over a drain in the other. The grate has since been redesigned to avoid similar clogs in the future.
The grate seen near the center of the picture is similar to the one which clogged and caused a recent spill.
Georgia currently has no system of instant or rapid reporting of spills to the public, which has resulted in John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper, to promote a “Resolution Requesting the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to Timely Publish Pollution Spill Reports.” Treatment plant authorities also explained that the coliform bacteria present in nearby river and creek systems are not from the water plant, but from somewhere upstream. Suspected sources are horse farms, and further testing is ongoing to determine the source. WWALS is also participating in this water testing.
Water samples are routinely tested for content. Treated water is emptied directly into nearby streams.
This sludge press removes water from the treated solids.
The dry, odorless and bacteria-free sludge is stored in huge landfills that resemble phosphate gypstacks. Numerous pipes tap the landfill for methane, which is used for energy.
OSFR President Mike Roth, and your historian were present, as well as Merrillee, along with two representatives from SRWMD, John Quarterman, a commissioner from Madison Co. and some interested local individuals. OSFR is grateful to the Valdosta water treatment plant authorities for the informative and detailed tour, as well as for their cordial hospitality. Thanks also go to Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and John Quarterman for making the tour possible.
A bit of humor can be found in unexpected places.
Debriefing at the end of the four-hour tour.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-