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

The Mayor’s Paddle is still a go for tomorrow (Saturday), according to results from Lowndes County and WWALS for Wednesday, January 15, 2020.

[Valdosta caution sign gone]
Valdosta caution sign gone at Troupville Boat Ramp

From way up at US 41 (North Valdosta Road), all the way to Saturday’s takeout, Spook Bridge (thanks, Langdale Company), WWALS got results well within state water quality standards.

[2020-01-15 GA green, FL red]
2020-01-15 GA green, FL red
The entire spreadsheet is on the WWALS website.

For Knights Ferry and Nankin Boat Ramps, Lowndes County got high results, higher than I would like to paddle there, but Knights Ferry is about ten miles downstream from Spook Bridge.

At GA 31 (State Line Boat Ramp), Lowndes County got 517 cfu/100 mL E. coli, while SRWMD got 3,255. This is an unusual case of differing results. That could be due to sampling at different times of day. Lowndes County Utilities Director Steve Stalvey tells me the county sampled at 11AM. Maybe SRWMD went early in the morning.

Valdosta and Lowndes County results at Knights Ferry corroborate WWALS results

Speaking of allegedly different results, we finally got Valdosta’s one datapoint for Knights Ferry, and despite what City Manager Mark Barber said at the Wednesday, January 8, 2020, meeting, Valdosta’s numbers are entirely consistent with WWALS’ results.

[2019-12-26 Knights-Ferry-Valdosta]
2019-12-26 Knights-Ferry-Valdosta

You can see Valdosta’s one pair of Knights Ferry results in the middle of the above image, for December 26, 2019. Valdosta’s 295 E. coli is what we would expect, given that the WWALS 533 at Nankin and the Florida 3667 at State Line that same day show that the contamination had apparently already moved downstream. Plus the WWALS 300 the next day at Knights Ferry is very close.

Where is the sewage?

Do the results from January 15th mean the sewage has moved below Spook Bridge? Maybe. But we’ve already seen the third wave at GA 31 (State Line). Here’s a picture at the railroad bridge just downstream from Sugar Creek:

[Color off]
Color off at railroad bridge on Withlacoochee River just downstream from Sugar Creek.

At Sugar Creek Landing, the Lowndes County strip of land from Gornto Road by the left side of Valdosta’s Gornto Road Pump Station, near the YMCA, there’s a lot of trash in deadfalls:

[Deadfall trash closeup]
Deadfall trash closeup at Sugar Creek Landing.

There’s no telling what may be caught in such deadfalls, from used diapers to who knows what that people flush down the sewers, whether they should or not.

Also, while the river water tested OK, there was a lot of stinking water in sloughs and the bottom of the river seemed like much contamination could still be down there. So there could be more sewage still stuck in the river bottom, sloughs, deadfalls, or whereever that could still wash down in a fourth wave.

It’s a Go for Saturday

We have seen repeatedly that conditions can change suddenly from one day to the next.

Those paddling Saturday: please be aware nobody can predict when we might see bacterial counts rise. We have tested as close to the paddle time as possible.

Lowndes County expects more results today, and WWALS will have more results late today. If those are high we will call off the paddle. However, at this time, we have no reason to believe that they will be high, and the Mayor’s paddle is still on.

[Zoom, 15:51:46, 30.7908289, -83.4518955]
Spook Bridge landing Zoom, 15:51:46, 30.7908289, -83.4518955
Thanks again to The Langdale Company for permission to take out just below Spook Bridge.

For those who don’t want to paddle the full distance, we even have a bailout point a few miles before Spook Bridge, where we will have a trailer for boats and a jeep for people to take out.

Downstream, we hope to get more results from SRWMD or FDEP or FDOH soon. It’s not looking good in Florida.

Among all these groups sampling, which one seems to be missing? Valdosta.

And what about people who paddle next Saturday? Wouldn’t they want to know that the river water is clean? That’s why we need regular weekly testing, not just after a spill.

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!