Lake City, Fla. (WCJB) Dirty water and lots of it. That's why 12 North Central Florida Counties have created a joint task force to eliminate the root of the problem which actually lies across the state border in Valdosta Georgia.
So, in a nutshell, the problem is this. There's a wastewater treatment plant in Valdosta which during heavy rain events can't handle the amount of sewage water, so it's spilled directly in the Withlacoochee River and flows downstream as far as the Suwannee.
"100 plus mile area impact in our state based on sewage spills occurring in the city of Valdosta," said Madison County Commissioner Rick Davis, in reference to the multiple sewage spills coming from across State lines.
In just 2018 alone there were three spills. Two resulted in 435-thousand gallons of sewage water going into the Withlacoochee, with the last spill yet to have a definite number of gallons spilled. And those are small numbers compared to previous spills.
Hamilton County Commissioner Beth Burnam explained why these spills are such a big problem. "For an example with how serious it is, at one time they had a wastewater spill of over 50 million gallons and that was going directly into the river which was flowing directly into Hamilton and Madison counties."
Davis added, "it is a health issue, it's an environmental issue, it has a negative impact on tourism we've lost some businesses because of it."
Now, this 12 county task force is trying to work with the city of Valdosta to find a solution because commissioners like Davis don't think the treatment plant is to blame.
"It's the infrastructure in their city that's creating the issue I mean it's the stormwater infiltration into their sewer lines. So if you ask me how often does this occur, that's mother nature. If they get a rain event of 3-4-5 inches then we have a spill."
The possibility of filing a lawsuit was talked about, but commissioners say its the last resort.
Burnham emphasized, "first of all we would like Valdosta to know we would like to help them, we're not here to be adversarial with them, stir up controversy, we're not automatically tossing out litigation."
What was decided at Thursday's meeting was commissioners want to arrange an in-person meeting with Valdosta city council members to find possible solutions including requesting federal aid to stop the spills.