Bad: Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River, to Dowling Park, Suwannee River 2020-02-19

Update 2020-02-21: Very high E. coli on Okapilco feeder creek 2020-02-19.

Florida testing shows the contamination Suzy Hall detected Monday at Knights Ferry on the Withlacoochee River appears to have reached the state line and into Florida the next day, at least as far as Florida 6, which is just upstream from Madison Blue Spring.

The day after, Wednesday, February 18, 2020, levels were above normal but not alarming that far down (other than at the state line), and there was a hot spot at CR 250 (Dowling Park Ramp).

[Downstream into Florida]
Downstream into Florida
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of data from three Florida agencies, WWALS, and Valdosta is on the WWALS website.

As usual, you can help.

Once again, upstream on the Withlacoochee, US 84 and above, Valdosta and WWALS testing Monday showed nothing remotely as high as these downstream results. And my spot check on the feeder creek at US 84 that runs into Okapilco Creek showed nothing out of the ordinary. Which leaves the prime suspect still the Quitman Land Application Site (LAS), which is near Okapilco Creek, south of US 84. And Okapilco Creek runs into the Withlacoochee River between US 84 and Knights Ferry. I have scheduled an appointment to go investigate the Quitman LAS.

Despite leaving messages at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) the past two days, I’ve gotten no response from them. Ironically, the Florida agencies communicate with WWALS almost daily.

[Rain coming downstream]
Rain coming downstream
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of data from three Florida agencies, WWALS, and Valdosta is on the WWALS website.


Valdosta updated its River Testing Data to add two new columns, for Knights Ferry and Nankin.

I’m told by Valdosta Public Information Officer Ashlyn Johnson that, starting this week, Valdosta plans to test all those sites (US 41, GA 133, US 84, Knights Ferry, Nankin, State Line, and Okapilco Creek) three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is really good news.

(Note that by “Withlacoochee River downstream at Madison Florida” Valdosta means at Horn Ferry Bridge on GA 31, aka Madison Highway, aka CR 145, within site of State Line Boat Ramp where WWALS tests. Why call it “Madison Florida”? According to Scott Fowler of Valdosta Utilities last year, because on the north side of the bridge is a sign saying “Welcome to Madison County, Florida”, even though the actual state line is south of the bridge.)

In a reversal of the traditional situation, Valdosta since last Friday, February 14, 2020, is publishing on its city website its own Water Quality Data.

[Knights Ferry, Nankin, State Line 2020-02-17]
Knights Ferry, Nankin, State Line 2020-02-17

Valdosta’s Monday Knights Ferry result was 26,000 MPN/100 mL E. coli, which is actually higher than Suzy’s result of that same day. Valdosta got a much lower number for Nankin than Suzy did, but we’ve seen that happen among Florida agencies and Lowndes County at the same place on the same day, presumably due to testing at different times of the day.

Whatever Suzy Hall and Valdosta detected at Knights Ferry Monday washed on downstream into Florida by the next day.


This is the first table of Florida results I’ve ever seen with E. coli TNTC (Too Numerous to Count) for every station tested. See also What do these numbers mean?

The plain English version of TNTC E. coli is extremely bad for your health if you contact it.

[FDOH 2020-02-18]
FDOH 2020-02-18

Apparently the contamination largely washed on down and got diluted by Wednesday. We know this because of tests by the Florida health departments, initiated by Madison Health deciding to test weekly a week or two ago. The Florida Department of Enviromnental Protection (FDEP) is not testing anymore, despite a Florida health advisory being active. Thanks to Kaitlyn Katelyn Potter at Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) for forwarding these results to WWALS. None of the Florida agencies are publishing any of this data.

As mentioned above, upending the former situation, Valdosta is publishing its own water quality data on its own website, and Valdosta now says it will test three times a week, all they way to the state line.

[FDOH 2020-02-19]
FDOH 2020-02-19

Except for that big spike at Dowling Park. It’s a little hard to believe the contamination could have moved 26 river miles in one day, but maybe so. Or maybe it was already below FL 6 and we just don’t know because nobody tested below. Or maybe something else is getting into the Suwannee River.

[Valdosta to Dowling Park, Withlacoochee & Suwannee Rivers]
Valdosta to Dowling Park, Withlacoochee & Suwannee Rivers in WWALS map of all public landings and boat ramps in the Suwannee River Basin.

We have a report of wells tesiing positive for E. coli near Luraville, in Suwannee County. And a report of an apparent sewage spill in the Suwannee River upstream from there. We will post more as we get more information.

You Can Help

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!