I was afraid this would happen: an inch of rain, and suddenly the Withlacoochee River was dirty again. Unfortunately, the most recent results we have are for last Thursday, April 2, 2020.
Those Valdosta results at US 41, GA 133, and US 84 for Wednesday, April 1, 2020, cannot be Quitman nor the usual agricultural suspects in Brooks County, although Okapilco Creek was also plenty bad.
No, nobody reported any sewage spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia, and also not in Florida. So most likely this contamination is mostly from livestock. Yes, there are horses, cows, and hogs upstream from Valdosta.
The contamination apparently had not really reached Knights Ferry or Nankin yet that day, and not State Line at all.
But the next day Madison Health saw a red 431 cfu/100 mL E. coli at CR 145 (aka GA 31, Madison Highway, State Line Boat Ramp, and Mozell Spells). See also what do these numbers mean?
So it’s not hard to guess that contamination probably reached Florida by Friday.
Results by FDOH, Valdosta, and WWALS for last Tuesday, Monday, and Sunday were all good. Then rain fell upstream on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, and something washed into the Withlacoochee River and Okapilco Creek.
Maybe we should put those WWALS Caution signs back up, or maybe just proactively put them up after each big rain.
Yes, we are working on locating sources and ways to remediate them. Yes, it is taking a long time, because there are multiple state agencies and experts involved, a related grant proposal to finish in record time, and a virus pandemic slowing everything down. Please be patient.
Also, Valdosta tells us they are operating on a skeleton staff during the stay-home period, concentrating on keeping their wastewater facilities running and not spilling, so Valdosta’s test results are somewhat spotty. Madison Health is apparently testing only once or twice a week now. WWALS did not test this past weekend due to a variety of health issues (no, none of the WWALS testing team have that particular virus). We shall resume.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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