Wastewater Facility Back to Normal Operations

By: City of Valdosta Email
By: City of Valdosta Email

City of Valdosta Press Release
March 3, 2013

Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant Fully Operational

At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, March 3, the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant was brought online and returned to normal operation, after a loss of function for only three days compared to the nine days of complete loss of function experienced in the flood of 2009.

Today, the river receded to the point where the temporary by-pass pumps could be connected to the existing valves. The system was turned on, became fully operational and began full treatment capabilities.

Lessons learned from the 2009 flood resulted in proactive measures which include the following:

The installation of bypass pumps, pipes and valves to utilize in the event of an emergency or act of God.

In 2009, the berm only protected the pump station, which did not prevent flooding of the chemical building, the chlorine contact building, the filters and the belt presses. The plant’s electrical system was destroyed in the flooded area and the filters and belt presses were inoperable.

In this event, the electric system, chlorine cylinders, de-chlorination system and all flooded areas were turned off to avoid the damage that was experienced in 2009.

In this event, the biological, natural occurring bacteria that are used in the treatment process were saved so that the system could treat wastewater immediately when it was turned back on. In 2009, the natural occurring bacteria were washed out of the plant as a result of the continuous pumping during the event.

In this event, the plant was fully operational in three days. In 2009, the plant had a complete loss of function for nine days and was not fully operational for over a month.

The city’s drinking water supply is in no way affected by the recent flood event.

The Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant flooded in its current location in the unincorporated area of Lowndes County, which is at the bottom of a 1,500 square mile drainage basin and the source of most of the flood waters received at the plant and throughout the city.

The city’s Water Treatment Plant is located on Guest Road, over 15 miles northeast of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Plant, and the river flows south from the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

There is no known connection between the Withlacoochee River south of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Floridan Aquifer, where the City of Valdosta withdraws its drinking water for its citizens.

Furthermore, the city’s seven wells, which withdraw the water from the aquifer 300 feet below the surface, are located near the Water Treatment Plant, adjacent to and within Freedom Park.

With the flood waters beginning to recede, the city has initiated cleanup efforts in low-lying and flooded areas, which include disinfection where necessary.

Cleanup efforts will continue for several days or until all affected areas have been disinfected and cleaned.

Until then, the city continues to encourage the public to avoid any contact with the flood waters for their health and safety. For more information, contact the Public Information Office at (229) 259-3548.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- State health officials are cautioning residents in north Florida to avoid the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers due to a possible wastewater contamination.

The Florida Department of Health today the advisory Saturday for residents in the counties surrounding the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. Officials say the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant in Valdosta, Ga., has overflowed into the Withlacoochee River, which flows south, connecting with the Suwannee River.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is scheduled to collect water samples. Results from the tests will be available next week.

Until then, residents are urged to avoid contact with both rivers. This includes those individuals in Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, and Suwannee counties.

Health officials warn that water contaminated by wastewater overflow can lead to several health hazards in humans.


By: Eames Yates
Extracted from 'Storm Fallout in Valdosta'
March 1, 2013

Valdosta, GA - The recent rains have caused millions of gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Withlacoochee River.

"We estimate that about five to six million gallons of untreated sewage will be going into the river directly," Henry Hicks, Valdosta Utilities Director, said.

The Withlacoochee Water Treatment Plant is flooded and has been shut down since 9 a.m. The flooding is a result of the excessive rain that pounded Lowndes County over the last several days.

Some parts of the plant are ten feet under water, and according to Hicks, the levels could rise an additional seven feet.

"We don't know the extent of the damage as long as the river keeps rising,” Eddie Black, Treatment Plant Assistant Superintendent, said. “Whenever the river goes down we'll be able to ascertain a few of the problems that we're going to run into, but as for right now we don't know."

According to Hicks, there could be thousands of dollars worth of damage to the plant; the city's drinking water will not be affected, however, and sewer service is expected to continue as normal.

As for the plant, the reopening is in the hands of Mother Nature.

"It could be several days to a couple weeks before everything is fully back online, and that's after the river goes down," Hicks said.

Hicks also advised against fishing, boating or swimming near the Withlacoochee River because of the bacteria, and it could take a couple weeks before these activities are safe.


City of Valdosta Release: Report of Major Spill in the Withlacoochee River

Over the two day period of Feb. 22-27, 2013, the Valdosta area received 8 to 10 inches of rain. Inflow and infiltration of stormwater into the sanitary sewer collection system have caused high flow conditions at the wastewater treatment plants. The high flow at the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) caused a hydraulic overload of the secondary system with a resulting loss of secondary solids into the plant effluent. This condition is expected to continue until the Withlacoochee River drops below flood level.

The total suspended solids result from the effluent sample collected on Saturday, Feb. 25th was 467 milligrams per liter. This is greater than 1.5 times the seven day average allowed by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which constitutes a major spill. The volume of the major spill into the Withlacoochee River is the total flow for Feb. 25, which is 11,673,000 gallons. We expect the treatment plant to remain in violation until the River levels drop below flood conditions.

Some manholes along the Withlacoochee Interceptor line and trunk lines feeding the interceptor are now under flood water. Inflow from the flood will continue to cause high flow at the treatment plant until the flood waters recede.

The City of Valdosta is currently having a system of pump stations and force mains designed that will replace the existing 52” gravity main that runs along the river basin to deliver flow to the Withlacoochee WPCP. This will greatly reduce the effects of river flooding on the collection system. The city is also having a new headworks facility and equalization basin designed for the Withlacoochee WPCP that will reduce the effect of inflow and infiltration on the plant processes. Both of these designs are 60% complete.

During the federally declared disaster flood of 2009, one-third of the Withlacoochee facility was under flood waters. The City of Valdosta plans to move the facility to a higher elevation to prevent future flooding. This move will allow the plant to be completely redesigned and re-built.

These three projects should remove the potential for hydraulic overflow due to inflow and infiltration in the future. The City of Valdosta is currently seeking revenue sources to allow the completion of these necessary projects.

Upstream and downstream sampling of the Withlacoochee River has started. If you need further information please contact Environmental Manager John Waite at (229) 259-3592 or at jwaite@valdostacity.com.


City of Valdosta Release: Report of Major Spill in the Withlacoochee River

Over the two day period of Feb. 22-23, 2013, the Valdosta area received approximately six inches of rain. Inflow and infiltration of stormwater into the sanitary sewer collection system have caused high flow conditions at the wastewater treatment plants. The high flow at the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) caused a hydraulic overload of the secondary system with a resulting loss of secondary solids into the plant effluent.

The total suspended solids result from the effluent sample collected on Saturday, Feb. 23 was 172 milligrams per liter. This is greater than 1.5 times the seven day average allowed by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which constitutes a major spill. The volume of the major spill into the Withlacoochee River is the total flow for Feb. 23, which is 9,047,000 gallons.

The City of Valdosta is currently having a system of pump stations and force mains designed that will replace the existing 52” gravity main that runs along the river basin to deliver flow to the Withlacoochee WPCP. This will greatly reduce the effects of river flooding on the collection system. The city is also having a new headworks facility and equalization basin designed for the Withlacoochee WPCP that will reduce the effect of inflow and infiltration on the plant processes. Both of these designs are 60% complete.

During the federally declared disaster flood of 2009, one-third of the Withlacoochee facility was under flood waters. The City of Valdosta plans to move the facility to a higher elevation to prevent future flooding. This move will allow the plant to be completely redesigned and re-built.

These three projects should remove the potential for hydraulic overflow due to inflow and infiltration in the future. The City of Valdosta is currently seeking revenue sources to allow the completion of these necessary projects.

Upstream and downstream sampling of the Withlacoochee River is being initiated on Feb. 25. For more information, contact Environmental Manager John Waite at (229) 259-3592 or at jwaite@valdostacity.com.


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