Floodwaters from 6 to 10 inches of rainfall several days ago has created hazardous conditions throughout the area, with road closures, flooded homes and businesses, and untreated sewage flowing into the river.
Although not quite as bad as the flood in April 2009, the same areas that were threatened then have been affected again. The area around Sugar Creek off Gornto Road, including the YMCA, Creekside Tavern, and homes along Meadowbrook were reporting flooding, causing businesses to close and residents to evacuate. Numerous road closures across Brooks County, with additional road closures in Lowndes, is seriously affecting residents attempting to get in and out of their homes and businesses. And a major sewage discharge from the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant are exacerbating the serious issues the city of Valdosta faced four years ago.
According to the National Weather Service, the floodwaters may rise several more feet in areas before beginning to recede by the weekend.
Wastewater plant overwhelmed
As floodwaters continued to rise at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant Thursday, the City of Valdosta released a statement stating that, until further notice, the plant has been taken offline, and “as a result, an estimated 5 to 6 million gallons of untreated sewage will be discharging directly into the river each day until the flood waters recede.”
More than 15 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater from city sewers has already entered the Withlacoochee River as a result of the floodwaters, and since Monday, 12 manholes throughout the city have overflowed, spilling sewer contents into area waterways.
The city stated that the power to the plant was shut off to prevent further damage to equipment and associated electrical and control systems.
The rising water is halfway through its crest at the plant, according to Valdosta’s Utilities Director Henry Hicks, who spent the day monitoring the floodwaters. Hicks projects the water will rise another two to three feet before it begins to recede.
An eight-foot-high chain link fence that was exposed yesterday at the plant is now completely underwater, and the water has flooded the influent pump station and the chlorinator building, which houses a one-ton cylinder of chlorine gas used in the treatment of city wastewater.
The water main that feeds treated water back into the Withlacoochee lays 40 feet underground, Hicks said, which is the main cause of inflow and water spillage problems.
Due to the amount of sewage in the floodwaters, citizens are advised to keep out of contact with the water, which now poses significant bacteriological contamination.
"If you have cuts, scrapes or open sores, contact with the water could cause those sores to become infected," Hicks said.
As soon as the floodwaters recede, workers at the plant will begin emergency pumping and treatment of city sewage. City tap water is still safe to drink, Hicks said Wednesday, and Valdosta citizens should still
be able to flush their toilets.