WWALS Water Quality Testing US 84 & FL Campsites, Withlacoochee River 2019-12-16

Update 2019-12-18: Valdosta sewage at GA 133 on Withlacoochee River? 2019-12-17.

There’s good news from the recent WWALS water quality tests that fill in the gap between Valdosta’s water quality testing inside Valdosta and at US 84 in Lowndes County, Georgia, and SRWMD’s testing in Florida. Valdosta’s sewage had not even reached US 84 as of 5 PM yesterday, Monday, December 16, 2019.

[Looking down]
Looking down onto the rapids above US 84 bridge.

You can donate to the WWALS water quality testing program and help pay for the Petrifilms and other equipment.

For Sunday, December 15, Suzy Hall found 100 cfu/100 ml E. coli at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, 33 at Nankin Boat Ramp, and 100 at State Line Boat Ramp. Those numbers are higher than the zeros I got for Wednesday, December 11, at Knights Ferry and Nankin, and the zero Sara Jay got for that Wednesday at State Line. However, Suzy’s Sunday numbers are well within safe levels. Given that she found slightly elevated levels at all three locations the same day, and there had just ben 0.4 inch of rain recorded through the previous day, most likely what she recorded was first flush, which is whatever was in the wood and on the roads from animals domestic and wild washing into the river.


Yesterday I collected water at Florida Campsites Ramp @ NW 47th St in Hamilton County, Florida, and at US 84 Bridge in Lowndes County, GA. At both locations, which are downstream and upstream from the above three sites, I got zero (0) cfu/100 ml.

That number is consistent with Valdosta’s 20 CFU/100 ml of Fecal coliform at US 84 for December 14th. Consistent because the WWALS Petrifilm method only really goes down to 33, below which we will show zero. And of course Fecal coliform as measured by Valdosta is not the same thing as the E. coli we measure, although historically the numbers have tended to be similar in Valdosta’s own previous test results.

So it’s unfortunate that slightly downstream from Florida Campsites there’s a sign at Madison Blue Spring State Park saying:

Increased risk of illness at this time
due to sewage spill.
For more information, please contact your
local county health department:

[Advisory: Possible High Bacteria Levels]
Advisory: Possible High Bacteria Levels

That sign has reportedly been there since Tuesday, December 10, 2019. I wonder how much revenue the state of Florida has lost because of it? When the water is as safe as usual, clean all the way up to US 84, 40 miles upstream from Madison Blue Spring.

[The Spring]
Madison Spring deserted

Near the spill location

Meanwhile, on Thursday, December 12th, Sara Jay also tested at Baytree Road on Sugar Creek, which is the first bridge below the notorious spill location. She got 466 cfu/100 ml. That is quite a bit less than Valdosta’s most recent 1670 cfu/100 ml FCOLI on Saturday, December 14, at the next bridge down on Gornto Road. Maybe the sewage is slowly washing downstream and diminishing at Baytree Road.


Sara’s Baytree Road number is similar to Valdosta’s upstream number 575 at St. Augustine Road of Saturday, December 14th.

On Thursday Sara also tested upstream on Sugar Creek at Lankford Circle and got 167 133 cfu/ml E. coli. That’s enough to be slightly worrisome, but well within Georgia state limits, and nothing like the numbers downstream of the spill.

You may wonder why it takes so long for WWALS to publish these results. Well, it takes 24 hours to incubate the Petrifilms, and then the WWALS Testing Committee reviews the results.

[Both stations]
Both stations

We are speeding up, and our data is rapidly appearing in Georgia Adopt-A-Stream’s database and maps where anyone can see it.

Creek name confusion

Valdosta Utilities refers to that St. Augustine Road location as on Sugar Creek, even though the road sign there says Hightower Creek, and Valdosta Stormwater’s Master Stormwater Management Plan has a map of Hightower Creek showing it crossing St. Augustine Road.

Google maps confusingly shows part of the creek downstream from Lankford Circle past Valdosta’s Remer Lane Pump Station and the spill site as Onemile Branch. But Valdosta Stormwater’s Sugar Creek map shows all that as Sugar Creek, with Stormwater’s Onemile Branch map showing Onemile Branch ending at Sugar Creek slightly downstream from Lakford Circle. We have previously noticed that Valdosta Utilities was unaware of these Valdosta Stormwater maps.

Our WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail follows the Valdosta Stormwater maps.

[Valdosta to Madison Blue Springs]
Valdosta to Madison Blue Springs, in WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin, these are all on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

All our reports on this record-largest Valdosta raw sewage spill are collected on the WWALS website.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!