Rivers declared safe after sewage spill, locals speak out - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Rivers declared safe after sewage spill, locals speak out

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) -

Swimmers and anglers can once again use the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers.

The all clear was given following another major sewage spill in Lowndes County that sent more than a million gallons of sewage into the waterways.

Some people who rely on those rivers to make a living says they're taking hits every time there's a spill.

Dave Stone owns Southern Ocean Sports in Valdosta where he trains people to become SCUBA certified divers. You may have also seen him on History Channel's hit show Ax Men where he water logs in the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers. But with multiple sewage spills contaminating the waterways this year, his two businesses are taking major hits.

"We're taking a hit with the dive shop because we can't get in the water to do check-out dives. So I've got all these people coming through classes but they can't do their check-out dives so basically it's putting a real hurt on us. As far as water logging goes we're probably 8 semi-trucks behind right now which puts us in the hole around $96,000 so that's money that we're never going to see again," said Stone.

On April 24th a sewer main burst in Lowndes County, sending more than 1.3 million gallons of sewage into the rivers. After warning people to not swim or fish, The Suwannee River Water Management District in Live Oak, Florida has given the all clear.

The water Management Director says spills in Lowndes County impact Suwannee tourism and recreation. "Folks thinking as far ahead as memorial day weekend and their plans to have family events on the river and whether it was safe for their kids to be playing in the river, swimming, fishing, boating , skiing," said Erich Marzolf.

Even though the rivers are now safe, some people are still apprehensive. All of the air tanks in Stone's dive shop sit empty because he says local divers are too worried to get in the water right now.

"It takes away not only one of our sources of income but you take them both away, so now we're sitting on our hands, we got nothing to do," said Stone.

Marzolf says the Suwannee River Water Management District will meet with Lowndes County and Georgia EPD officials next month to address sewage spills and flooding concerns.

That meeting will focus on improving communication between the two states when spills and flooding occur.

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