Valdosta sewage from Sugar Creek to Florida 2019-01-01 2020-01-01

Update 2020-01-03 Valdosta Sewage Public Meeting, Valdosta City Hall Annex, 2020-01-08.

You can see Valdosta’s sewage going down the Withlacoochee River as the high red numbers in these composite tables WWALS has cobbled together from various data sources (all acknowledged below).

Early on, the sewage apparently mostly sat in Sugar Creek downstream from the spill site, due to low water and no rain.

[Early (12/10-12/18)]
Early (12/10-12/18)

Most of the Georgia numbers in above table are from Valdosta Utilities data. The ones marked with a W are WWALS data using the Georgia Adopt-a-Stream 3M Petrifilms method.

Fecal coliform numbers started dropping in Sugar Creek at Gornto Road on December 14, and were much more acceptable by December 15 and 16th. Where did the sewage go?

[Moving (12/18-12/23)]
Moving (12/18-12/23)

Apparently the sewage oozed into the Withlacoochee River by December 175h, and still stretched from the Sugar Creek Confluence to GA 133 on December 18. While Fecal coliform counts and E. coli counts aren’t the same, they’re usually in a similar range, so you can see the couple of WWALS datapoints at GA 133 match what Valdosta saw: thanks, Sara and Scotti Jay.

Valdosta also saw an elevated Fecal coliform count at US 84 on December 18th (although oddly not E. coli), which set off alerts in Florida.

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

On December 21st, WWALS still saw some sewage at the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River (thanks, Sara), and found the sewage at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp: thanks, Suzy Hall!

Valdosta and Lowndes Count didn’t want to believe Suzy’s numbers, but keep watching.

[State Line (12/21-12-29)]
State Line (12/21-12-29)

Suzy found even higher E. coli at Knights Ferry on December 24, as Florida sampling saw a high count at GA 31 near the state line.

When Suzy checked at Nankin Boat Ramp on December 26, halfway between US 84 and State Line, she found a high count, but not nearly as high as her previous Knights Ferry counts. Given that Florida found very high Fecal collform and E. coli at the state line that same day, apparently the biggest lump of sewage was already crossing into Florida.

[Diluted (12/24-01/01/2020)]
Diluted (12/24-01/01/2020)

Then what? Apparently recent rains and springs downstream helped dilute the sewage until at the moment in Florida, bacterial counts are not unacceptably high.

Lowndes County has its own sewage system, which did not leak. However, after I talked to Chairman Bill Slaughter about a week ago, he said he would look into getting some data at Knights Ferry to check our WWALS results. On December 21, 2019, Lowndes County had two contractor labs sample at Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line, and got the results you see here.

At State Line, they bracket (99 and 115) the numbers WWALS got at State Line 1 and 4 days earlier (100 and 100). At Knights Ferry and Nankin, the Lowndes County numbers are actually higher than the most recent WWALS numbers.

Why? Because the sewage had already moved downstream, a week after Suzy saw high E. coli counts at Knights Ferry. This movement is shown in the WWALS data, and in the surrounding Florida data, as well as being confirmed by the Lowndes County data.

Thanks to Michael Mitchell, Environmental Health Preparedness Program Coordinator, Flroida Department of Health, for the underlying table, to which I added the WWALS and Lowndes County data.

Thanks to Darlene Velez and Katelyn C. Potter of SRWMD for forwarding it to Chris Mericle.

Thanks to Chris Mericle for forwarding it to me; here it is: Florida Sample Results.

And thanks to Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter for sending me a table of the Lowndes County data: Lowndes County Sample Results.

The composite table, once again, is here: Composite results.

The only Valdosta warning sign on any river downstream from Sugar Creek remains the one at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, upstream of the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River.

[Valdosta Caution sign]
Photo: Scotti Jay, of Valdosta Caution sign at Troupville Boat Ramp, 2019-12-21.
Someone has decorated that signpost with flowers, like the crosses you see at highway wreck sites.

All our WWALS reports after this Valdosta record-largest sewage spill are here:

Thanks to WWALS testers for collecting our data and to WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman for getting it organized in Georgia Adopt-A-Stream.

WWALS continues to test, using the big bunch of Petrifilms WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman ordered last week, which were a tad expensive, yet saved 20% by ordering in bulk. You can help WWALS test water quality by donating to our WWALS water quality testing program.

[Suzy with a Petrifilm]
Suzy Hall with a Petrifilm.
Each bacterial test costs $6 for Petrifilms alone.
WWALS is spending about $40 a day on Petrifilms after this Valdosta spill.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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