SRWMD slides and water quality data after Valdosta raw sewage spill, Withlacoochee River 2020-01-14

Update 2020-01-17: Mostly clean in Georgia, not in Florida, Withlacoochee River 2020-01-15

Here’s why we keep sampling.

Suwannee Riverkeeper sampling water at Troupville Boat Ramp
Suwannee Riverkeeper sampling water at Troupville Boat Ramp, Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 15, 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle.

SRWMD reports high bacterial counts for the third time at State Line (GA 31), and again at CR 150 (Sullivan Launch).

[SRWMD 2020-01-14 (WWALS composite spreadsheet)]
SRWMD 2020-01-14 (WWALS composite spreadsheet)

Will the Mayor’s Paddle happen as scheduled this Saturday, January 18, upstream (See Albany Herald, January 15, 2020)on the Withlacoochee River?

That depends on what we see in the WWALS results from samples collected yesterday and today. Emma Wheeler, WCTV, January 15, 2020, Withlacoochee River tested ahead of Mayor’s Paddle:

If we do paddle, maybe the two reporters along with us will ask the Mayor some questions about these SRWMD results and why Valdosta isn’t helping test the river. So far as I know, Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber and Utilities Director Darryl Muse will not be on the paddle. Oh, and the Valdosta warning sign that was at Troupville Boat Ramp, where the Mayor’s paddle will begin: that sign is not there anymore./kee

Darlene Velez, SRWMD Water Resources Office Chief, sent me her slides (now on the WWALS website) from her presentation at the SRWMD board meeting yesterday. They conclude with this one:

[Current Response Status]
Current Response Status

She didn’t yet have at the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) Board meeting Tuesday the test results she sent me yesterday evening, which show that yet again bacterial counts are far above limits at State Line (GA 31) and even higher this time at CR 150 (Sullivan Launch).

[Third Health Advisory]
Third Health Advisory

Here’s the problem:

[Hydrologic Conditions]
Hydrologic Conditions

Nobody can recall ever seeing an event like this, with millions of gallons of raw sewage spilled when there was no rain and the creeks and rivers were very low. Most of the spill apparently stayed in Sugar Creek for a week, and then only travelled slowly down the Withlacoochee River after rains. Worse, some of it seems to have gotten stuck and only moved along after more rain. And a third time this seems to be happening.

I hope to get Lowndes County’s results from Monday, January 13. But as you can see from SRWMD’s data for Tuesday, January 14, things can change a lot in one day.

So WWALS keeps sampling.

Sure would be helpful if Valdosta, which caused this problem that is affecting 38 river miles of the Withlacoochee River in Georgia, and at least part of the 28 river miles in Florida, would also sample downstream of Sugar Creek on the Withlacoochee River, all the way to the state line. So far, all we’ve heard from Valdosta is “we did what we were required to do”. Well, they weren’t required to flush 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage down our waterways.

And what happens if somebody paddles the same route next weekend as the Mayor does this Saturday? Or anywhere on the Withlacoochee or Little or Suwannee (or Alapaha, or Santa Fe, or Ichetucknee) Rivers? Wouldn’t they want to know if the water tested clean just before that? We need regular weekly water quality testing at many access points on all these rivers.

Donate to WWALS Water Quality Testing Program

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, and more this week.

Much more about this December 2019 record-largest Valdosta raw sewage spill and its ongoing aftermath is on the WWALS website:

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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

2 thoughts on “SRWMD slides and water quality data after Valdosta raw sewage spill, Withlacoochee River 2020-01-14

  1. Loretta T Whelpton

    Raw sewage contains pathogenic solids… feces from an urban sewage collection system… that are persistent, and not degraded quickly. Many, if not most, of these fecal solids are probably still present where they settled out of the sewage effluent — almost undoubtedly in the receiving creek, and then washed downstream at whatever rate into the river(s). Are the results tabulated above the result of multiple samples taken at each location, or just one sample at each? It very much matters when statistical information such as Most Probable Number (MPN) data are reported, to know about the sampling conditions and any quality control sampling measures taken or not taken. Georgia and Florida are feces-bombed via a navigable river system… WHERE IS THE US EPA? (and no more jokey answers to my question! “Mar-a-Lago” is NOT the answer!)

    1. jsq Post author

      I’ll give you the same answer I’ve been giving about EPA: at the meeting in Madison on Jan 8, the four or so EPA people kept falling back on “we didn’t bring the right people to answer that.” I am asking Senators and Congress members to get EPA to respond, so far with no success. Georgia EPD is working on some sort of penalties through the standing Consent Order on Valdosta, but so far we don’t know what those penalties will consist of. CDC won’t even listen unless contacted by a state health dept., which so far hasn’t happened. The different samples are taken with different labs; long story.

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