The Governing Board of the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) was given an overview and update at their August 12 meeting about the wastewater treatment plant in Valdosta, Ga., which affects the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers.
More than 90 area concerned residents and public officials attended the meeting to get clarity about the action being taken by Georgia to resolve the spills from the Valdosta wastewater treatment during flood events.
The District invited the Florida Department of Environment Protection (FDEP), the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection (GDEP) to discuss why the problem exists, how the health concerns are addressed and what is being done to take care of the problem.
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., Secretary of FDEP provided an overview of Florida’s role in the wastewater spills and gave a brief history of the sewage spills of the wastewater treatment plant in the City of Valdosta into the Withlacoochee River. He spoke about the gravity of the spills and the significance to Florida’s communities. Secretary Vinyard introduced and recognized Judson H. Turner, Director of the GDEP for his responsiveness and sensitivity to the issue and its impact to Florida.
“We are neighbors and we take this seriously” said Director Turner as he appeared before the Governing Board. He stated that a new wastewater treatment plant has been approved for the City of Valdosta and is scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2015. The first phase of the project has begun and it addresses the pump station issues as well as rerouting water mains.
Director Turner acknowledged the issues associated with wastewater treatment plant, as well as the necessity to put in place solutions to prevent spills from the Valdosta wastewater plant.
District Chairman Don Quincy invited Director Turner to report back the Board bi-annually to keep the District updated on the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant. He welcomed the open lines of communication between the District, other agencies and concerned citizens.
Celeste Philip, MD, Deputy Secretary of the FDOH reviewed her agency role once a wastewater spill occurs from the plant. FDOH monitors water quality of the rivers to assess public health concerns, addresses complaints, and coordinates the messaging associated with the water quality monitoring to keep the public informed of any health issues.
State Representative Elizabeth Porter along with elected officials and representatives from Columbia, Hamilton, Madison and Suwannee counties and Branford, Lee and Madison cities were present. Also attending were staff representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Rubio, Congressman Yoho, Florida Senator Dean, and Florida House of Representatives Perry and Porter.