Received today from Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll, who sent it to a long list of people, apparently responding to the VDT's recent article and editorials.
During my tenure as a city councilman, I have tried to keep everyone updated on events and issues with our city. I want to share and email I sent out recently that hopefully you will agree is important information. In regards to today's paper — the story has some serious errors and omissions. First of all in 2009- all we saved from the flood was the pump station. No sewage treatment was taking place and contrary to what the VDT says, then as we are now — raw sewage was going into the river. It lasted about a month in 2009. With the decision to pull equipment/tanks etc so they would not be destroyed this year — we not only saved a lot of tax payer money....but we will be able to bring the plant back on line in about a week. Reducing by several weeks the amount of sewage going into the river. In regards to city water systems being compromised — considering our water plant is 10-15 miles north of the WWTP and the amazing fact that the river flows south — your water is completely safe. Do we like discharging raw sewage into the river? Of course not. During the flood it was going to happen either way.
I want to add one other note — the men and women in our Utility department, fire, police, sanitation, engineering etc, etc have been working long days this past week trying to manage flooding issues. They deserve our thanks. It is very frustrating for those whose homes and businesses were threatened by the flood. It is very frustrating to our city employees who have worked so hard to manage this crisis.
So as Paul Harvey says — “here is the rest of the story”.
I think Council Carroll is a bit cavalier about the city's wells being upstream of the wastewater treatment plant, because while the river may flow south, it's not clear how the Floridan Aquifer flows, especially with multiple 800 foot deep wells sucking water out of it. Also I wonder what people downstream of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant think of all that raw sewage coming down at them, especially considering some of them have wells downstream.
However, he makes a number of points that the VDT omitted, including a plan to do something about the situation, and appended is his "rest of the story".
I know you have some of this info, but maybe not all in regards to he WWTP and the flooding- the city has not gone silent. So let me borrow a little here and share it with you.— Our FEMA claim, which included funds to build a 12 mile force main to transport waste to the plant was not denied until August 1, 2012, after waiting 3 years for a final answer. We were prohibited from advancing this project until FEMA made a final decision or the project would have not been eligible for FEMA funding. Since FEMA's staff and FEMA's outside expert wrote the claim, and included this specific project in the claim, we felt it was reasonable to assume FEMA would approve it. They did not.
This project will resolve the sewer overflow issues along Sugar Creek as the transmission lines will be elsewhere and out of the river and creek banks. At the very next Mayor/Council meeting after the FEMA denial (August 2012),this project was brought before M/C for approval. We approved a contract with Parson's Engineering to design the new force main, headworks and equalization basin to resolve this issue. It is now approaching 90% design completion, we are already acquiring the right of way for the relocation, and we plan to have the project out for bid in July or August of this year. This is a difficult project that includes boring underneath I-75 so it cannot be done overnight. This project will cost $32 million dollars, so it is no small project. While SPLOST failed in 2012, we will complete the project with loans and we were approved in January by GEFA for a $32 million dollar loan. I think this answers any question as to whether there has been any progress. Since finally receiving the denial from FEMA on August 1, 2012, we have made substantial progress in 7 months. Prior to 2009 the city did have plans for improvements to both Mudcreek and WWTP. AECom was already mobilized in the spring of 09 and had an approved contract to begin work. Due to the delays dealing with FEMA, we have been sitting on over $2 million worth of equipment for that project since 2009. We completed improvements to Mudcreek last year and it is operating perfectly fine. In many respects I am glad we did not do those upgrades. What a waste it would have been if we had done them spending all that money and then have the flood. Also, if you may remember M/C took action and purchased land for a new plant on higher ground last year. Ultimately once funding is secured this new plant will solve all our problems and should serve the city for many, many decades.
As far as the flooding, you are aware that Larry prepared and presented to the Regional Water Council in early 2010 a proposal for the state to build a regional reservoir upstream where it must be located to address the flooding issue. Valdosta sits at the bottom of a 1500 square mile drainage basin that starts up around Crisp County, The river water causing this flooding comes from the region and the drainage basin that include both the Withlacoochee River and the Little River. These rivers do not flow through the city of Valdosta and they are waters of the state and it will take the state, the corp of engineers and other such agencies to help resolve this problem. As you know, Larry also met with EPD, had several meetings of state agencies here and in Tifton where local residents were invited, and he made a presentation to Governor Deal on this matter. The Regional Water Council voted to add the issue to their work program in 2010 and EPD actually had an engineering firm perform some work towards the development of a plan. Since the solution will be reservoirs outside the city, all of the agencies I mentioned above must be stakeholders. Unfortunately the state discontinued funding for the Regional Water Councils and their work has since ceased I am told. I also spoke with the Chamber's GAC and solicited their support two years ago. And then last year myself and Emily Davenport (Storm water Utilities Dir.) made a presentation to WWALS. This is the citizen advocacy group for our river systems that includes a long time city councilman from Tifton.
Now, in regards to the decision to "let" the WWTP flood this year. After careful consideration focusing on costs, I support the decision the city has made to pull equipment and tanks and let the flood do what it was going to do. This not only saved a lot of tax payer money, but it will allow our folks to bring this plant back on line quicker after the water recedes. Any suggestion this decision was politically motivated is not only untrue, but an insult to all those working 20 hr days to keep this city running during this crisis.
To recap, the solution to the sewer overflows is about 90% designed, right of way is being acquired, funding has been approved and the $32 million dollar project should go to bid this summer. As far as the flooding, we will again re-engage the various state and federal agencies who must help resolve this regional flooding issue from the waters of the state. Saying the City has done nothing is not fair nor accurate. Instead of pointing fingers we ALL need to work together and focus on what we can do.
I hope this helps. Thanks for allowing me to share this with you,Sincerely,
Councilman Tim Carroll
Valdosta City Council, District 5
City Of Valdosta
P.O. Box 1125
216 E. Central Ave.
Valdosta, GA 31603
Valdosta...A City Without Limits
As readers of this blog (or the VDT) know, I am a board member of WWALS Watershed Coalition, as is Gretchen. Emily Davenport was the first speaker at a WWALS board meeting after WWALS incoporated last June. Tim Carroll also spoke briefly to WWALS before it was incorporated.