Tag Archives: GA EPD

Arglass GA-EPD air permit application for a second facility to produce glass containers 2023-07-17

The Arglass glass container manufacturing plant off of Rocky Ford Road southwest of Valdosta, Georgia, has filed an air quality permit application for a second furnace. This is the phase 2 that was in the plans since at least 2016.

[Maps, Arglass air permit application 2023-07-17]
Maps, Arglass air permit application 2023-07-17

What they want to do is more pithily summarized in a local variance Arglass already got from the Valdosta-Lowndes County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBOA) on June 6, 2023:

  1. VAR-2023-13- All or part of Tax Map 0059-Parcel 094 and a part of Tax Map 0063- Parcel 012. A request from Arglass for a Variance to Table 4.01.02 (E) of the ULDC as it pertains to standards for building location. The subject property is located at 1 Arglass Road, Valdosta, Georgia in a M-2 (Heavy Manufacturing) zoning district.

In the minutes, Trinni Amiot explains for Lowndes County, “Arglass needs a second furnace. The only way for the bank lending officer, to support that is for it to be on its own parcel. What they’re suggesting is to create a second parcel, put the furnace on that with zero lot lines, and then it’ll meet the requirements of the lending company. What they’re suggesting is to create a second parcel, put the furnace on that with zero lot lines, and then it’ll meet the requirements of the lending company. It’s on M-2 surrounded by E-A. Those black lines are the current parcel lines. Now, those will be reconfigured. The expansion of the Arglass will more than double the footprint of the existing facility and includes the second furnace. The lending agent requires that the furnace is on the side of the parcel. To maintain efficient operations, the new expansion must be connected to the existing facility and the variance request is for zero lot lines between the two tra[cts].”

There was apparently a map of the proposed new plant area in the ZBOA packet, which I have requested from Lowndes County.

Lowndes County parcel 0059-094 is the current site of the plant in 80.93 acres owned by the Valdosta-Lowndes Industrial Authority. Parcel 0063-012 is the much larger parcel owned by LANGDALE CAPITAL ASSETS INC from which the plant parcel was split out in 2016. Continue reading

Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06

Update 2023-07-29: Clean Withlacoochee River, filthy Crawford and Sugar Creeks 2023-07-28.

That word “immediately,” I don’t think it means wait yet another day before informing the public, after Valdosta Utilities already waited four days to tell GA-EPD about the sewage spill.

Even though Valdosta wrote to GA-EPD, “we did not observe any direct flow to the creek,” Valdosta’s own state-required followup testing showed too-high Fecal coliform and E. coli in Knights Creek a week later, downstream, but not upstream, of the spill. Just because they didn’t see the sewage running over the ground doesn’t mean it’s not seeping through the vegetation or the ground itself.

Maybe you’re as tired as I am of Valdosta blaming sewage spills on contractors. Who hires the contractors? Who supervises them? Why doesn’t Valdosta’s fancy SCADA system alert the city to these spills early, where, when, and how much?

The information seemed pretty skimpy that Valdosta Utilities supplied to the public about its July 6, 2023, sewage spill into Knights Creek. Also, I wanted to know when did Valdosta tell GA-EPD, since that spill did not show up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report for a long time, Not until after I asked GA-EPD about it, actually, even though Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy had said he would look into that.

So I filed an open records request with the City of Valdosta for all communications between Valdosta and GA-EPD about Valdosta’s last three sewage spills. I only got back information about the Knights Creek spill, so here is that much.

[Where, When, After: Valdosta's Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06]
Where, When, After: Valdosta’s Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06

Let me say that recent communications from Valdosta Utilities have been much improved in recent days, coming from Assistant Director Jason Barnes. Barnes took it upon himself to warn WWALS about contamination in Sugar Creek before the cleanup paddle we had scheduled for last Saturday, so we converted it into an on-land cleanup. That elevated Fecal coliform and E. coli came from Valdosta’s July 17, 2023, spill into Hightower Creek near River Street, upstream from Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River. Reporting for that July 17th spill was much better: a press release went out the next day, and it also appeared in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report the day after the spill. And Jason Barnes showed up in person to see about getting a warning sign placed at Sugar Creek.

Back to the July 6, 2023, spill into Knights Creek, above Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.

Utilities Director Bradley L. Eyre did not write to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) until July 10th, four days after the spill was discovered on July 6th. Continue reading

Redesignation as Recreational, Withlacoochee River, GA 37 to Tiger Creek 2023-07-19

Update 2023-07-26: Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06.

This was unexpected. GA-EPD asked if we wanted to complete redesignating the rest of the Withlacoochee River in the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT) in Georgia from Fishing to Recreational, for tighter contamination restrictions. We said yes.

[Nomination form and map]
Nomination form and map

What’s the difference? There are three levels of waterbody designations considered every three years in the Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards required of each state by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These are Fishing, Recreational, and Drinking. Fishing has the least restrictions on contamination, and Drinking has the most. Nobody drinks out of our Suwannee River Basin rivers, so Recreational is what we want.

If this new request gets approved, that’s 46.3 more Withlacoochee River miles, added to the 23.71 miles redesignated in 2023, that’s 70 river miles.

Since Florida by default designates all rivers as Recreational, that means that if this redesignation happens, all of the Withlacoochee River in the WLRWT will be Recreational. That’s 97.6 river miles in Georgia and Florida.

Her question, received July 19, 2023: Continue reading

Valdosta City Manager, sewage spills, and trash 2023-07-18

After I complimented them quite a bit yesterday, I fear I must do so again today: Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy and Assistant City Manager Catherine Ammons.

Yet there is still room for improvement on sewage spills, and ample room on trash and Click ‘n’ Fix, as well as generally on letting the public know what the city of Valdosta is doing to fix problems that affect waterways and the public.

[Valdosta officials and recent sewage spill reports 2023-07-19]
Valdosta officials and recent sewage spill reports 2023-07-19

Not only did they get a press release out for yesterday’s sewage spill the day after the spill. After I sent GA-EPD that WWALS blog post, the state replied at 8 AM this morning saying that spill was in today’s GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. Indeed it is, and already picked up by the WWALS automated software and on the WWALS website.

The Assistant City Manager asked what I thought a reasonable time was to get a press release out about a sewage spill, and I answered that specific question (certainly not five days, and as soon as the city knows what’s happening).

Here’s the answer I should have given, since it’s not what I think, it’s who we are all trying to protect. People who fish, swim, or boat on the river or in the creeks need to know when there is a health hazard. So as quickly as practically possible, preferably by the day after the spill, or even the same day. Especially for weekends, when the most people do those things, please get the press release out before the weekend, and that does not mean after 5 PM on Friday. Plus post it on the city’s website and on the city’s own social media.

As I promised in the meeting with the city officials yesterday, I have filed an open records request for the letters Valdosta sent GA-EPD informing them of those spills. We’ll see where the long delay was on the previous spill reports.

More about sewage spills

Continue reading

Road widening south of Grand Bay, Lakeland Highway, Lightsey Road to Shiner Pond Road 2023-07-18

Watch out for road work on Lakeland Highway across Grand Bay Creek.

[Map and Grand Bay Creek Bridge]
Map and Grand Bay Creek Bridge

The Public Notice doesn’t say when the work will start on GA 31 aka US 221 aka Lakeland Highway, but you have 30 days from yesterday to comment. I will ask for a copy of the application. Meanwhile, the Public Notice is below, and here is the gist of it (I added the links):

State Route 31 from State Route 7 to State Route 135
(GPS Coordinates: 30.97284, -83.10488; 30.90854, -83.18506)

The proposed project will impact the buffer of Open Water (OW) 4, OW 13, and OW 31. The project will add passing lanes at four sites in two interconnected corridors along State Route (SR) 31 in Lanier and Lowndes Counties. The project will impact the state mandated 25-ft buffer within the Suwannee Watershed (HUC 03110202). The disturbance will cover 5,903 square feet and include discharging of fill and clearing and grubbing to widen SR 31, culvert replacement, and the installation of Best Management Practices (BMPs).

GA 31 is commonly known as Lakeland Highway, and also as US 221.

The coordinates supplied actually put the southwest end of the road work just east of Lightsey Road aka CCC Road in Lowndes County, and the northeast end east of Shiner Pond Road aka Spells Road CR 12 in Lanier County.

[Map: Lakeland Highway widening in ARWT]
Map: Lakeland Highway widening in the WWALS map of the Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT)

OW 4, 13, and 31 presumably are numbered for this particular project. I would guess Continue reading

Another Valdosta River Street Spill into Hightower Creek 2023-07-17

Update 2023-07-21: Clean Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers, but warning 2023-07-20.

At least they got the press release out in a more timely manner this time: only the day after the sewage spill. They also included an estimated number of gallons and a sort of precise location, as well as a cause of the spill.

[Map: 1700 River Street into Hightower Creek in WLRWT]
Map: 1700 River Street into Hightower Creek, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River
in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT)

Speaking of cause, notice no mention of rain, which is probably because there was no significant rain on Valdosta Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

Indeed, rain can cause sewage spills, but Valdosta does not seem to have many of those these days, and that’s a good thing. However, Valdosta still has spills for other reasons, mostly related to sewer system infrastructure that was not updated for decades. In recent years the city has spent upwards of $100 million on sewer system fixes, but there is still a long way to go.

This 6,000 gallon sewage spill is in the same place as a 1,170 gallon spill on February 8, 2023.

The Valdosta press release does not name “the creek”, but it’s a branch of Hightower Creek, which runs into Sugar Creek, the Withlacoochee River, and then the Suwannee River. I wonder if the erosion was partly caused by the previous spill.

WWALS received this press release from Valdosta at 5:16 PM today. Which is interesting, because I was in a meeting with City Manager Richard Hardy and Assistant City Manager Catherine Ammons from 2:15 to almost 3 PM, with one of the topics discussed being sewage spills, and they did not mention this spill.

One thing I mentioned to them was that the two previous Valdosta spills (into Knights Creek and into One Mile Branch) finally showed up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report yesterday, after I asked the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) why they had not already appeared. We shall see how long this one takes to show up there.

The Valdosta Press Release

Tuesday, July 18, 2023 Continue reading

Knights Creek tested too high for E. coli before Valdosta reported the latest spill 2023-07-10

Update 2023-07-26: Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06.

Update 2023-07-18: Another Valdosta River Street Spill into Hightower Creek 2023-07-17.

Valdosta’s own water quality tests of Knights Creek showed way too high E. coli for the day before Valdosta’s press release about its most recent sewage spill into Knights Creek.

[Map and Report]
Map and Report

I don’t know whether these tests were done by Valdosta’s downstream testing contractors or by their in-house people. If the latter, it seems likely that Valdosta knew of these Monday results before the city issued a press release the next day at 6:24 PM Tuesday, July 11, 2023. Yet there is no mention of them in the press release.

Valdosta got even higher results for March 29th, with a note: “Possible cause of high results on 3/29 was substantial rainfall in area.”

But Valdosta also got too-high results for March 30th (above the one-time test limit of 410), on June 13th (above the alert limit of 1,000), and on June 21st (above the one-time test limit). I’m not finding records of rain on Valdosta at all these dates. Plus if that was the cause, why are the too-high results all only for the BELOW location and not the ABOVE location? Has Valdosta had more sewage spills than they have reported?

Speaking of reported, neither this spill nor Valdosta’s previous spill have shown up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. I have asked GA-EPD about that.

These Knights Creek test results are according to data on the city of Valdosta Utilties Department web pages, 2023 Knight’s Creek Biological Monitoring Results. Continue reading

Quitman raw sewage spill, 1401 N. Washington St. 2023-06-27

Update 2023-07-07: Clean Little and Withlacoochee River 2023-07-06.

Thanks to GA-EPD for clarifying the county, watershed, and location of the June 27, 2023, Quitman sewage spill of 3,000 gallons of raw sewage into a drainage ditch.

[GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report, Google Streetview, 1401 GA-333, Quitman, GA]
GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report, Google Streetview, 1401 GA-333, Quitman, GA

Specifically, thanks to Dillon Rodenbaugh of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) for getting these things fixed, after I reported them. Continue reading

Valdosta Williams Street One Mile Branch Sewage Spill Sign 2023-06-26

Update 2023-06-26: Withlacoochee River and Sugar Creek OK Sunday 2023-06-25.

Nobody from the City of Valdosta answered my questions about the One Mile Branch Williams Street sewage spill after the Saturday 5:14 PM Valdosta press release, until City Manager Richard Hardy this morning texted me “1600 block William St.”

That’s between E. College and E. Moore Streets. But that’s not where the sewage spill warning sign is.

[Sewage spill sign, pump, pipe at One Mile Branch, pipe and vac truck along Williams Street, E. College St. to E. Moore St., 2023-06-26]
Sewage spill sign, pump, pipe at One Mile Branch, pipe and vac truck along Williams Street, E. College St. to E. Moore St., 2023-06-26

The first WWALS scout to get there was WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, who sent back these pictures, and some videos:

Why Valdosta Utilities or the Valdosta PIO did not post such pictures is mysterious.

I’d give Valdosta a B+ on dealing with the spill (no higher, because they did not discover it).

But I give Valdosta a D on informing the public: a press release three days after they were informed of the spill, after 5PM on a Saturday, when people would already be fishing or boating downstream, with no location within three miles, no estimate of how much was spilled, unclear on whether the situation is fixed or not, and no answer to questions for another day and a half. Continue reading

Another reason to reject TiO2 strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp: food coloring health issues 2023-06-02

If white paint wasn’t a bad enough reason for a strip mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp, how about food coloring linked to serious health issues?

“Research shows the chemical [titanium dioxide] is likely a neurotoxin and immunotoxin, and can damage the reproductive system, cause birth defects and damage genes.”

[Skittles, TiO2 dragline]
Skittles, TiO2 dragline

Remember: Twin Pines Minerals is proposing to mine titanium dioxide, not titanium metal. And the Okefenokee Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, exchanging surface water with groundwater down to the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink in south Georgia and north Florida.

For ways you can object to the permits for that strip mine, currently before the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD), or to support a bill that would prevent it expanding, see:

Tom Perkins, The Guardian, June 2, 2023, Health advocates urge US regulators to ban common food coloring additive: Titanium dioxide, found in candy, meat substitutes and packaged cookies, has been linked to a range of serious health issues,

Public health advocates say a common color enhancer added to thousands of US foods is toxic and dangerous, and have formally petitioned federal regulators to ban the chemical’s use.

Though the compound, titanium dioxide, has been widely used for decades and is found in foods like M&Ms, Skittles, Beyond Meat plant-based chicken tenders and Chips Ahoy! cookies, recent science has shown it is also linked to a range of serious health issues and accumulates in the body and organs.

Continue reading