Dirty Crooked Creek Wednesday & Friday; Withlacoochee River better in GA Wednesday 2020-02-21

Update 2020-02-28: Madison County fed up with contaminated water –WCTV 2020-02-26

Two of these rows are not like the first, and the middle ones are worst.

[Three sets]
Three sets

The really ugly plates in the middle were made from water collected at the Devane Road bridge over Crooked Creek, just off of US 84, in Brooks County, Georgia, a bit east of Okapilco Creek, upstream of Knights Ferry Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River.

[Crooked Creek Bridge]
Crooked Creek Bridge

You can see these Friday results are even worse than what the Coles saw Wednesday. In this table of results for this week, focusing on Brooks County and downstream, my Friday Devane Road result is up in the range of what Valdosta saw for Monday at Knights Ferry on the Withlacoochee River. My Monday result for Devane Road was actually taken at US 84, and it would appear I was sampling ditch water, not the main creek. We will be using the Devane Road bridge location for sampling Crooked Creek. And if anyone knows a better name for this creek, let us know.

[Crooked Creek quite bad]
Crooked Creek quite bad
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of data from three Florida agencies, WWALS, and Valdosta is on the WWALS website.

I even stopped by Valdosta City Hall Friday to compliment them on something. But there is more Valdosta and the state of Florida need to do.

WWALS will keep testing. You can help.

The first row of plates is a control (0 cfu/100 mL E. coli), and three Petrifilms for water collected Friday afternoon, February 22, 2020, from Okapilco Creek at US 84, in Brooks County, Georgia. I count 1 + 1 + 3 = 5 E. coli colonies (the blue spots with bubbles). Divide by 3 and multiple by 100 to get 166 cfu/100 mL.

[Okapilco Creek @ US 84]
Okapilco Creek @ US 84

I was too busy trying not to slip into the water to get a good picture of Okapilco Creek. I saw plenty of this exotic invasive Japanese Climbing Fern.

[Japanese Climbing Fern]
Japanese Climbing Fern

The second row is Crooked Creek @ Devane Road, the same place Conn and Trudy Cole tested for WWALS Wednesday and found a very high number. Well, these plates have even more colonies. My best estimate is 240 + 220 + 201 = 661 for 22,033 cfu/100 mL. Let’s just round that to 22,000. Remember, anything 1,000 and up is very bad.

[Crooked Creek @ Devane Road]
Crooked Creek @ Devane Road

I dropped a bucket on a rope into the creek from the bridge to get this sample.

[Sample, Crooked Creek @ Devane Road]
Sample, Crooked Creek @ Devane Road

Nice tree canopy. You’d never guess what lurks in that creek water.

[Tree Canopy]
Tree Canopy

I also collected water from Crooked Creek on Monument Church Road. This is just downstream of a big Quitman sewage settling pond, and just upstream of Brooksco Dairy pastures and many other cows in fields. I count 55 + 68 + 60 = 183 for 6,100 cfu/100 mL.

[Crooked Creek @ Monument Church Road]
Crooked Creek @ Monument Church Road

That smelled as bad as it looked. At Devane Road, Crooked Creek had a faint cow manure aroma. At Monument Church Road the smell of open sewer was overwhelming.

[Sample, Crooked Creek @ Monument Church Road]
Sample, Crooked Creek @ Monument Church Road

Hint to testers: make sure your bucket is securely tied to your rope, so you don’t have to climb down to get it.

[Sample with label visible]
Sample with label visible

Why would the results be higher downstream on Crooked Creek? Well, I don’t know, but in between Monument Church Road and Devane Road are many cows in pastures that run off into ditches that drain into the creek.

[Cows in pasture with runoff into ditch, then creek]
Cows in pasture with runoff into ditch, then creek

Zooming the spreadsheet out a bit to see rain upstream, it sure looks like rain is washing E. coli out of Crooked Creek into the Withlacoochee River.

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

We do not have Friday data yet from the City of Valdosta. We have no new data from Florida since the Wednesday data in this table. We are told by Julie Espy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that the Florida county health departments continue sampling. Also that FDEP plans to put Florida results online very soon, possibly this week. If so, that will be a positive development.

We don’t have enough evidence yet to say that Crooked Creek is the only source of Withlacoochee River contamination from Knights Creek downstream. Other things are also upstream from Okapilco Creek.

Crooked Creek in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).

This is the entrance to the Quitman Land Application Site (LAS), on US 84 just west of Okapilco Creek. We have a tour scheduled this coming week.

[Entrance, Quitman Land Application Site]
Entrance, Quitman Land Application Site

At Monument Church Road and Troupeville Road is the namesake church.

[Monument Baptist Church]
Monument Baptist Church

At Patrick Road and US 84 is this sign.

[Brooksco Dairy]
Brooksco Dairy

Note that the above tables have Wednesday results from Valdosta, updated from the Valdosta Monday results shown in a previous post. They come from Valdosta’s Water Quality Data web page. Click on River & Creek Testing Data. If you’ve been there before, you may have to refresh your cache for the Water Quality Data page first (control-shift-R) to get the most current River & Creek Testing Data.

[Page 2 Valdosta City Testing Data]
Page 2 Valdosta City Testing Data


It appears that, as Valdosta Public Information Office Ashlyn Johnson told me, Valdosta really is testing three times a week all the way to the state line. Including on Okapilco Creek at the Bray property downstream from US 84, where Lowndes County previously was testing.

I stopped by Valdosta City Hall Friday to compliment the city on that, and to point out that the Cole’s Wednesday Crooked Creek result could not possibly be caused by Valdosta. Former Mayor John Gayle happened to be there, so I told him, as well. I also mentioned to City Clerk Teresa Bolden that Valdosta publishing its own water quality testing results meant one less type of open records request I would be filing.

Current Mayor Scott James was not in, and City Manager Mark Barber was in a meeting. I’ll be back there Monday morning.

What else?

So, Valdosta, how about those well testing expenses people downstream have incurred?

And, FDEP and Florida legislative delegation, is the state of Florida going to fund at least weekly water quality testing ongoing, or are you going to leave it to the counties to pay? And how about doing it three times weekly like Valdosta is doing?

Valdosta, if Florida is not going to pay for all that well and river testing since the Valdosta December 2019 spill, are you going to pay for it?

What about all the other items in the WWALS letter to GA-EPD, such as Aquatic wildlife monitoring in rivers and springs, Wildlife monitoring on land, and Detecting and monitoring any related plumes of contamination underground?

What about this one?

  1. Require Valdosta to fund an educational campaign via a vehicle such as the Florida Counties Rivers Task Force to inform the public when the rivers are clean, when they are not, and where. Valdosta continues to fail to comprehend that every spill affects the entire Suwannee River Basin, adding to the stigma that causes people to stay off the rivers, even upstream, which is why even Columbia and Alachua Counties, Florida, are part of that Task Force. To reduce that stigma, far fewer and smaller wastewater spills from Valdosta would help, along with all the other numbered items above. However, much damage has already been done, and ongoing monitoring and public education is also needed.

Sure, we’ll compliment Valdosta when there’s something to compliment, and it’s refreshing that there finally is: thrice-weekly testing and online publication on Valdosta’s own website. But there is more to be done, and we won’t forget.

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.

Much more about recent water quality is on the WWALS website.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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