City Stresses Importance of Reporting Illegal Dumping in Local Waterways
The City of Valdosta urges citizens to dispose of their camping, boating, agricultural, and everyday waste appropriately to ensure that it does not end up in the rivers, streams, or creeks. The Utilities Department has made numerous efforts to identify offenders and alleviate this issue. Still, the Utilities staff asks residents to help out by taking personal responsibility for their waste or reporting any acts of illegal dumping.
If you take a trip down to any of the rivers, creeks, and streams that flow through the Valdosta area, chances are that you will see full tall trees, flowing waters, and bits of litter leading to and near the water's edge. It is an unfortunate but harsh reality that can ultimately be avoided. This litter creates an issue because it will inevitably impact the water quality and wildlife that reside in it if isn’t removed. When food items are discarded, for example, it can attract vermin to the edge of the creek. When they dispose of their waste, it ends up in the stream, resulting in increased fecal material in the water. Utilities Director Daryl Muse assures residents that the City Utilities Department takes a weekly measurement of those numbers to monitor all debris and litter's effect on the waterways. Still, certain areas do see an increase due to illegal dumping activity. Muse says they have also seen an increase in residents that are discharging campers or other devices into the river, which adds to this contamination as well.
"It is bad for everyone, for people who want to enjoy the water. Whether you like to swim, canoe, or fish on the river, no one wants to use a waterway that is contaminated," said Muse. “This contamination is not limited to Valdosta alone. We also have to think of our neighbors. The waterways flow down south and eventually through Florida. All of the waste and products that are not designed to be in the water adversely affects everyone's ability to enjoy it. This is why it is crucial to be a good steward of the environment and dispose of waste in the designated areas.
Knowing that this is an ongoing issue, the City recently implemented an aggressive program to find some of the culprits. So far, a few violators have been identified and turned over to the City Marshals. From there, they must appear in Magistrate Court and are subject to fines, but more importantly, the City wants them to understand the impact of their actions. The program has been in place for almost a year. Since it was implemented, the City has made some significant breakthroughs in identifying precisely where the litter and waste is coming from and are starting to look closely at the areas where the issue is more prevalent.
The City recently held community and river clean-up events to help combat this issue. These events have also served as an eye-opener to how severe the problem is. Hundreds of pounds of litter and debris were recovered during the river clean up, including plastic bottles, bags, food items, household appliances, and much more. Another element people may not consider when discarding their waste is that even if it is not disposed of in or near a waterway, it can still be washed down after a rain event. "People discard whatever they are finished with along the banks or in the street, and then it rains and ends up in the drains. Which usually finds its way to a body of water. So, if you are throwing bags or cigarette butts out the window, all of that eventually contributes to the water quality. When you have a population of 100,000 people, every little bit of waste can add up," said Muse.
To report illegal dumping near or on the waterways, please call Environmental Manager Scott Fowler at (229) 259-3592.