While earlier reports suggested that the Satilla River had been heavily polluted, the news—at least currently—is much better than first reports.
On August 23, at approximately 6 p.m., a sewage spill occurred at a Douglas Wastewater Treatment facility and lasted until approximately 7:30 a.m. the following morning. During this time, approximately 720,000 gallons of raw sewage entered the Seventeen Mile River near the Highway 32 bridge in Coffee County.
Initial news reports indicated that the sewage had entered the Satilla River and was traveling downstream. Thankfully, that’s not the case, and as of now, the spill has been contained to the Seventeen Mile River only.
“The area the sewage ran into is swampy and has very little flow. It’s essentially an area of standing water,” said Beth Stevenson, program manager for the Coastal Division of DNR’s Environmental Protection Division.
The spill is reported to have been caused by an improper drive setting in conjunction with a faulty alarm float during upgrades to the lift station at the facility. The plant is currently undergoing upgrades to avoid future problems or spills.
Stevenson shared with GON that a clean-up of the spill isn’t possible, but that ongoing testing would ensure that water levels are safe both at the site and downriver.
“At this time, we have no reported fish kills in the spill area or downstream,” said Stevenson. “We will continue to monitor this situation diligently and are prepared to take any action necessary to help protect the Seventeen Mile River and the Satilla River that it runs into.”
According to a public notice put out by the EPD, residents should avoid contact with the Seventeen Mile River water until Sept. 7 as a precautionary measure.
Bert Deener, DNR Fisheries Region Supervisor in Waycross, added, “As of this time, there is no indication whatsoever that the Satilla has been affected. Therefore, boating, fishing, and consumption of fish are all safe to do.”