HAHIRA — Compelled by the severity of Valdosta’s record raw sewage spill and the expenses and stigma incurred nearby and downstream, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition has sent a letter requesting 10 enforcement actions to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
WWALS member Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., summed up the content of the letter.
“As a person living downstream on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, I feel (expletive deleted) upon by Valdosta over and over,” Mericle said.
“I cannot drink the water from my well. I worry about the health of the river itself and the animals that live in it and drink from it. We in Florida were patient while Valdosta was improving their wastewater plant, which apparently was not adequate since we still have spills when it rains heavily.
“But this time it was not a rain event. It was gross negligence. I am out of patience. I believe it is time for legal action.”
The Suwannee Riverkeeper letter notes GA-EPD already has a legal action against Valdosta, a consent order.
WWALS asks GA-EPD to use its enforcement power to require notification, water quality testing, education, and plans and procedures not only for preventing such spills but also for tracking them as they travel down our creeks and rivers and for remediation of effects on wells and reputation.
“Valdosta says it does what GA-EPD tells it to do, so we’re asking GA-EPD to tell them,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said.
“Today we’re forwarding the letter to the U.S. EPA, the affected parties and, of course, to Valdosta,”
In March 2015, WWALS helped organize a meeting with the city of Valdosta and interested parties, including Deanna and Chris Mericle.
Pertaining to that meeting, WWALS noted, “At that time, four and a half years ago, we thought that lawsuits against Valdosta would merely take away from funds needed to fix the problems. Yet tens of millions of dollars later with two new wastewater treatment plants and a force main system, one of that system’s pump stations failed when there was not even any rain, causing Valdosta’s record-largest raw sewage spill. We have had to think again, and at this time it appears that it will take something more than meetings and mild reprimands to get Valdosta to fix its chronic sewage problems.”