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More than 7 million gallons of sewage may have contaminated Withlacoochee River

Sewage (generic)
Posted at 9:53 AM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 08:56:36-05

(WTXL) — The Florida Department of Health in Madison and Hamilton counties have issued a health advisory for the Withlacoochee River after more than seven million gallons of sewage spilled into Sugar Creek.

More than 7 million gallons of sewage rising out of a manhole and into Sugar Creek in Valdosta. The city says a contractor is to blame.

The City of Valdosta reported that a large spill of untreated sewage waste that occurred this week, will impact water quality flowing from Sugar Creek into Withlacoochee River.

After an investigation, utility workers noticed that a contractor working on the Valdosta’s data gathering system disconnected a cable at the Remerton Lift Station for testing and failed to reconnect it. They say that mistake by the contractor resulted in the sewage spill.

Based on the information collected, approximately 7,592,910 gallons was discharged from a manhole into Sugar Creek adjacent to the 1800 block of Norman Drive.

Utility employees in Valdosta were not notified about the issue for roughly four days.

Darryl Muse is the Utilities Director for the city of Valdosta. He says that they are working tirelessly to make sure that this never happens again.

"Right now we're taking samples. We're out there where the creek dumps into the Withlacoochee," Muse explained. "We're pulling samples we should have the results of those samples this afternoon and we'll be able to post those samples to see what the actual affect of the creek was on the river."

At this time, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are conducting water sampling. In the meantime warning signs have been posted at the spill area to advise the public to avoid any contact with the water for the next seven days.

Until further notice, people in the area are urged to take precautions when in contact with the Withlacoochee River. Health officials say anyone who comes in contact with the river water should wash thoroughly, especially before eating and drinking.

Authorities say due to the river contamination all public boat ramps along the Withlacoochee River are closed.

Valdosta has had problems with major sewage spills before. In December 2018, a health alert was issued after sewage was spilled into the Withlacoochee River.