Clean Withlacoochee River until next big rain 2020-05-05

2020-05-13: A clean week, Withlacoochee River 2020-05-08.

More good news! The Withlacoochee River is still clean. Of course, all these posts are advisory, because conditions can change at any time, it takes 24 hours to process a sample, and everyone’s reactions are different to E. coli and other pollution.

We can guess the Suwannee River is clean, although nobody is testing it, and it seems to have its own sources of contamination.

This clean spell will probably last until the next big rain, which may be some weeks away. So now’s a good time to get out there on our rivers, where you can easily stay 50 feet apart on the water and six feet on land.

WWALS continues water quality testing, and you can help.

[State Line Boat Ramp]
State Line Boat Ramp Photos: Suzy Hall, downstream, John S. Quarterman of 2019 WWALS Boomerang paddle race, and of Waterkeepers Florida toast to Earth Day, all at State Line Boat Ramp.

We’re even thinking of taking down our yellow diamond Caution signs for now.

[Clean with no rain]
Clean with no rain
For context see

Thanks to Madison Health for the most recent results, from Tuesday, May 5, 2020, which show as clean as we’ve ever seen from them.

Thanks to Valdosta for their Monday results, which show almost as clean, corroborating those of WWALS testers Saturday: Suzy Hall at the state line, and Conn and Trudy Cole’s results upstream at US 84 and above.

How can this be when the Coles tested Crooked Creek at 3,100 cfu/100 ml E. coli, well above the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert limit of 1,000? (See What do these numbers mean?)

Apparently there wasn’t enough rain on Brooks County last week to push enough water down Crooked Creek to carry enough contamination into Okapilco Creek and the Withlacoochee River. Also, Crooked Creek is not the only source of contamination of Okapilco Creek, and there wasn’t enough contamination upstream, either. See also the previous report, Clean Withlacoochee River, less bad Crooked Creek 2020-05-02.

[Last rain wasn't very big]
Last rain wasn’t very big

Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter sent another set of Lowndes County datapoints, for April 29, 2020, just before the most recent rain. They match pretty closely the Valdosta results for that day, except Lowndes County got lower E. coli at the state line, and did not get a sample at Knights Ferry.

Lowndes County (which has its own sewer system which has not spilled in a long time) also got a sample at GA 76 on Okapilco Creek, which was slightly higher than Valdosta’s sample at US 84.

Nobody has gotten a sample on Okapilco Creek downstream of US 84 since March. We thought we had found a new sampling station for WWALS for that, but now we’re investigating another possibility.

This Lowndes County data apparently is not their new privatized and more comprehensive stream testing. We will inquire how and how frequently those results will be published.

Don’t forget to send in your comments on the new GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta. However, the recent contamination is agricultural. WWALS is talking to some of the likely sources, who want to be part of the solution. Because it’s agricultural, there is no single pipe to fix, so please be patient. This will take months or years.

Meanwhile, nobody knows what river conditions are downstream of Florida 6 on the Withlacoochee River, or on the Suwannee River, because nobody is testing there. Meanwhile, WWALS keeps getting reports of contaminated wells and something in the Suwannee River as far down as Running Springs, 100 river miles downstream from Valdosta.

[Cook County Boat Ramp to Running Springs]
Cook County Boat Ramp (top left) to Running Springs (lower right)
in WWALS map of all public launches and Boat Ramps in the Suwannee River Basin.

Yet FDEP tells WWALS there are no plans for any more sampling than the current weekly by Madison and Hamilton Health, and monthly by FDEP.

Floridians, maybe you’d like to ask your elected and appointed state officials to stop up and do what Lowndes County and Valdosta are already doing in Georgia: at least weekly sampling. If Valdosta can do it three times a week to the state line, the great state of Florida can do the same all the way to the Gulf.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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