Avoid Withlacoochee River Knights Ferry to Suwannee River Dowling Park 2020-02-27

The good news: both Valdosta and FDEP are posting testing results on their websites. There’s a catalog of those and WWALS’ results at wwals.net/issues/testing/.

The better news: Valdosta is testing three times a week, FDOH once a week, and FDEP is testing again, after saying it wouldn’t.

The really bad news: Thursday test results say stay off the Withlacoochee River at least from Knights Ferry on down, and the Suwannee River from the Withlacoochee Confluence at least down to Dowling Park.

The WWALS results from my Monday samples may help explain this contamination, and it looks like you can see it flow from Crooked Creek through Okapilco Creek to the Withlacoochee and the Suwannee. You can help.

[Rain driving contamination down 2020-02-27]
Rain driving contamination down 2020-02-27.
Extract from WWALS composite water quality test results from Georgia and Florida.

But Valdosta’s Wednesday results also show contamination at US 41, upstream of Valdosta. And FDEP shows a spike at Dowling Park again. So there are multiple sources, not only in Brooks County, Georgia, but also elsewhere. The good news for Valdosta is it doesn’t seem to be coming from Valdosta.

WWALS continues to work on locating sources of contamination. For example, two of us visited the Quitman Land Application Site Wednesday. More on that in another blog post. WWALS testers will be sampling this weekend.

I took samples on Crooked Creek again on Monday, February 24, 2020. Unlike the Friday only three days earlier, when the stench of raw sewage was overwhelming at Monument Church Road, this time it was not really noticeable.

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

The difference was presumably not much rain just before. Still, 1,066 cfu/100 mL E. coli is above the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert level of 1,000. See what do these numbers mean?.

[Crooked Creek @ Monument Church Road 2020-02-24]
Crooked Creek @ Monument Church Road 2020-02-24

At the Devane Road bridge on Crooked Creek, the count was lower Monday than the Friday before, but 5,633 is still way too high.

[Crooked Creek @ Devane Road 2020-02-24]
Crooked Creek @ Devane Road 2020-02-24

That bridge is just north of and within sight of US 84.

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

What’s between the big excrement pond just north of Monument Church Road (which turns out not to be owned or run by Quitman) and Devane Road?

[Cows as far as the eye can see]
Cows as far as the eye can see

And cows may not be the only thing.

On Okapilco Creek at US 84, the results were zero (0) E. coli.

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

Downstream on Okapilco Creek that same Monday, Valdosta got only 100 cfu/100 mL, which is within the good range for longterm test results. Why is that? Maybe the contamination I measured hadn’t yet made its way to Okapilco Creek. Or maybe that downstream Okapilco Creek testing station pioneered by Lowndes County and now tested by Valdosta is upstream of the Crooked Creek confluence. All we have for a location is “Bray Property south of Quitman”. We will inquire.

[Map: Crooked Creek, Okapilco Creek, Withlacoochee River]
Map: Crooked Creek, Okapilco Creek, Withlacoochee River
in WWALS map of Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).

But on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, Valdosta saw high (680) at the Bray property, and very high (1,800) and sky-high (7,000) E. coli numbers at Knights Ferry and Nankin on the Withlacoochee River. So the inch and more of rain Tuesday and Wednesday washed something downstream into and from Okapilco Creek.

And on Thurday, February 27, 2020, two Florida agencies, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), or actually Madison Health, saw bad numbers from the state line all the way down the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers to CR 250 at Dowling Park.

[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 don’t know what’s in the Suwannee River downstream from Dowling Park, because nobody tested.

Thanks to Julie Espy of FDEP, Lindsey Garland of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), and Ashlyn Johson, Valdosta PIO, for providing information. This recent testing and online publication by Florida and Valdosta is a great improvement, especially when combined with WWALS testing But still more is needed.

There’s also still the little matter of reimbursement to the Florida counties and individuals in both Florida and Georgia who paid for well testing. Valdosta, are you listening? I did mention this to Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse Wednesday in Atlanta. See that and more Valdosta can do. But it’s not just Valdosta that needs to do more.

You Can Help

Please continue to contact your local and state elected officials in Florida and Georgia to ask for funding and personnel for frequent (several times a week) testing at closely-spaced stations along all our rivers, with timely online publication.

You can help WWALS test water quality by donating to our WWALS water quality testing program. Or maybe you know a bank or other source of larger financial support.

[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 and other materials after this Valdosta spill.

Maybe you want to get trained and help test; if so, follow this link.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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