Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.
At the regular scheduled meeting of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, Jan. 25, the commissioners heard from Jennifer Johnson, Health Officer from the Madison Health Department, regarding the contamination of the Withlacoochee River with untreated sewage from the City of Valdosta, Ga. Johnson informed the commissioners there had been testing done at various locations along the river, including County Road 150 and County Road 141. All the locations where water testing had been performed showed high levels of both E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria. County Manager Brian Kauffman informed the commissioners he had been in contact with officials with the City of Valdosta, and the problem from the untreated sewage stemmed from a broken seal at the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant. The seal apparently broke at around 2 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 23 and had been leaking sewage for approximately 42 hours. Kauffman also stated that another contributing factor is that the City of Valdosta has numerous sewer manholes which need replacing. According to information provided by the City of Valdosta, a project is underway to replace and/or rehabilitate these sewer manholes. The estimated completion date for that project is December 2018.
It is believed that it takes approximately five days for water to make its way from the treatment plant to the Suwannee River. Johnson stated that since the Withlacoochee was not expected to flood out of its banks, the risk of resident well contamination was low. The Madison County Health Department can help cover the cost of testing well water if a resident has reason to suspect their water has been contaminated, such as the presence of cloudy water, a foul odor coming from the water, etc. Commissioner Vickers asked if the City of Valdosta could be contacted to help cover the cost of testing well water, especially for the residents of Lee, where wells are particularly vulnerable to contamination. Kauffman said he would contact the City of Valdosta regarding that request.