2. City of Valdosta Sewer Woes
Following a massive flood event in April 2009 which threatened to overwhelm the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, Valdosta City officials tried to obtain more than $93 million in federal funding to replace the plant, while not making any provisions to keep it from being overwhelmed again. Four years later, in February 2013, another heavy rainfall caused flooding which again emptied raw sewage into backyards, businesses, and the Withlacoochee River.
The city shut the plant down this time entirely, allowing millions of gallons of untreated raw sewage to flow directly into the river, causing brown-outs, warnings and closures downstream in Florida. The Times’ investigations turned up similar events dating back more than 20 years, with a total of more than 300 million gallons of untreated and partially treated sewage released into the Withlacoochee.
Following lawsuits and a consent order from the Environmental Protection Agency, the city is under time constraints to relocate and rebuild the plant, replace pump stations, and replace gravity lines with force main lines. To date, the city has obtained loans from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for water/sewer issues, with an outstanding loan debt of more than $93 million.
With the passage of SPLOST VII, the city will be able to pay back a large portion of the loans for the new plant and affiliated projects within the next seven years.
3. A tragic loss in Brooks County
In early July, a single vehicle accident took the lives of three Brooks County High football players shortly after leaving practice. Jicaree Watkins, Shawn Waters, and Johnie Parker died in the accident while a fourth player, De’Vron Whitfield, was seriously hurt but recovered from his injuries. The loss affected the entire community, which pulled together for the sake of the families. Several players paid homage to their lost teammates by wearing their numbers and jerseys throughout a stellar season, which saw the Trojans all the way to the state semi-finals.
Coach Maurice Freeman helped his players recover from the tragic loss of their friends and inspired them to perform at their peak all season, not losing a single game at home all year.