Valdosta Daily Times

April 28, 2013

Latest spill belongs to county, not city

Conflicting reports issued last week

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — On Wednesday, April 25, a sanitary sewer overflow from a burst main was initially thought by the City of Valdosta to be one of their lines. The City immediately issued a press release to that effect. However, by Friday, it was discovered after testing and digging in the area that the force main actually belongs to Lowndes County.

The local governments’ initial confusion over whose main caused the overflow led to further confusion downstream, as the Florida Department of Health issued an advisory to residents along the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, citing the City as the responsible party. The advisory was printed in Saturday’s Times.

 Lowndes County officials have accepted responsibility for the overflow, which occurred west of the Withlacoochee near Highway 133 and resulted in 1.32 million gallons spilling over the course of 40 hours, some of which reached the river.  The County reported the spill and has established sampling points to monitor the river.

 The City and County are cooperating to fix the issue. On Saturday, the City released a statement saying, “Once Lowndes County verified it was their line, they took over the repair process. To assist Lowndes County in stopping the sewer overflow as quickly as possible, the City of Valdosta offered to allow Lowndes County to pump their sewage into the city’s 54-inch line, which immediately stopped the flow of sewage into the river and prevented any further spill and violations during the repair process,” according to Henry Hicks, Valdosta Utilities Director.

“We are glad to help, understanding these issues can happen to anyone.”    

 Regardless of which municipality is responsible for the overflow, the Florida Department of Health is still urging caution to residents of Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison and Suwannee counties to avoid contact with the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers until further notice.