Valdosta sewage at GA 133 on Withlacoochee River? 2019-12-17

Update 2019-12-19: Still dirty at GA 133 Bridge, Withlacoochee River 2019-12-19.

It looks like Valdosta’s record raw sewage spill may finally be washing downstream after the recent small rains.

[Sugar Creek via Ga 133 to US 84]
Sugar Creek via Ga 133 to US 84, Withlacoochee River with the GA 133 bridge highlighted,
on the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

Valdosta’s numbers went way down at Gornto Road on Sugar Creek on Sunday, December 15 and Monday, December 16, in this table the Valdosta City Clerk sent this data today in response to my open records request:

St. AugustineGorntoHwy. 84
12-10 =1,530/100 ml5,100 /100 ml65 /100 ml
12-11 =1,275 /100 ml8,100/100 ml5/100 ml
12-12 =555/100 ml1,745/100 ml40/100 ml
12-13 =565 /100 ml5,700/100 ml70/100 ml
12-14 =575/100 ml1,670/100 ml20/100 ml
12-15 =360/100 ml465/100 ml80/100 ml
12-16 =445/100 ml240 /100 ml

That table shows another two days of data after what we got from the Valdosta City Manager the other day.

Maybe the rain over the weekend washed the sewage downstream. It’s curious that the numbers at St. Augustine Road did not drop like that; I can only guess the more built-up area upstream on Hightower Creek is responsible for that.

But if the sewage washed downstream from Gornto Road on Sugar Creek, where did it go?

Sara Jay tested for WWALS Tuesday, December 17, at the GA 133 bridge on the Withlacoochee River and got 633 cfu/100 ml E. coli. That’s higher than the 466 she got at Baytree Road on Thursday, December 12. Which sure looks like Valdosta’s record sewage spill has washed that far downstream.

You can help WWALS test water quality by donating to our WWALS water quality testing program.

WWALS doesn’t have baseline testing data at GA 133 to compare. But the City of Valdosta does:

station_id collection_date ECOLI
GA133Little 2018-09-19 80
GA133Little 2018-09-25 0
GA133Little 2018-10-03 30
GA133Little 2018-10-09 20
GA133Little 2018-10-17 55
GA133Little 2018-10-24 75
GA133Little 2018-10-31 75
GA133Little 2018-11-07 80
GA133Little 2018-11-14 40
GA133Little 2018-11-21 40
GA133Little 2018-11-28 335
GA133Little 2018-12-05 130
GA133Little 2018-12-12 0
GA133Little 2018-12-19 30
GA133Little 2018-12-26 10
GA133Little 2019-01-02 30
GA133Little 2019-02-07 105
GA133Little 2019-03-05 70/11
GA133Little 2019-04-02 60
GA133Little 2019-05-07 75

You can see that all last fall and winter E. coli never measured more than 335 at GA 133 on the Withlacoochee, and was almost always below 100.

So 633 is quite unusual.

Valdosta’s recent numbers at US 84 are still pretty low, although there may be an upward trend. I still found zero (0) at US 84 on Monday, December 16, which is in the same general range as Valdosta’s measurements from a couple days before. Suzy Hall found the Withlacoochee River still clean Sunday below that in Lowndes County to the state line, and I still found it clean at Florida Campsites in Hamilton County, Florida. But keep watching.

Now it seems like we need to get somebody back out to US 84 to test.

Most of this WWALS water quality data is in Georgia Adopt-A-Stream. None of Valdosta’s data is in there, which makes comparisons such as these unnecessarily difficult.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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