Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

February 28, 2013

Planning for ‘a little rain’

-- — “Into every life, a little rain must fall.”

This old adage is meant metaphorically. That each person will face troubles in their lifetime. Sometimes, the metaphor becomes literal.

While the rains may have ended in our region Monday night, they continued falling as they moved north. Three days of sunshine and clear skies later, the combination of what fell here and what fell to the north and flowed south converged.

On a bright Thursday morning, several Valdosta and Lowndes County residents faced calamity. Rising waters threatened their houses and businesses. Authorities helped some people evacuate. Others held their breath as water flowed closer to properties, flooding yards and roadways.

For many residents, Thursday was a nightmarish deja vu of the 2009 floods that caused thousands of dollars of property damage in various areas throughout Valdosta. Many of these same people could only watch helplessly Thursday as the houses they had repaired from flooding four years ago were swamped in water again.

Meanwhile, throughout the week, the rising Withlacoochee River has caused sewage from the City of Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant to spill into the waterway. From Monday to Thursday, more than 15 million gallons of partially treated wastewater and an estimated five million gallons of raw sewage had flowed from the overwhelmed city treatment plant — the same 40-year-old plant that has deteriorated to a point where portions of the operation can no longer operate on the best of days.

While we can all consider that old saying about a little rain falling into each life as a warning that troubles are inevitable, city leaders should have long ago grasped that it also serves as cautionary advice.

Through experience, the city should have known that areas flooded in 2009 may flood again at some future date when faced with similar conditions. These conditions returned this week, but nothing has been done in the past four years to halt a repeat of the 2009 flooding.

Also, since that flood, the city knew the wastewater treatment plant could no longer withstand heavy rains and a non-stop influx of rising waters. Given the plant’s aging infrastructure, the city may also face environmental penalties in the form of tainted waterways and payments to the feds until the problem is resolved.

These situations remind us of another old, yet appropriate, quote.

Before he was the 34th American President, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the supreme commander of Allied Forces in World War II. He oversaw the operations of D-Day, the most massive invasion in human history. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

A better plan may not have resolved the issues faced by the city and within the city this week, but better planning may have had officials and residents better prepared for an occasion when more than a little rain fell.

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