Possible bacterial contamination, Withlacoochee River, Hamilton, Madison Co. FL 2020-07-09

Update 2020-07-10: Data behind and after Florida bacterial advisory for Withlacoochee River 2020-07-09.

It’s a Florida Health Department advisory of possible bacterial contamination, so I have set the four Florida Swim Guide “beaches” to red: Sullivan Launch, Florida Campsites, Madison Blue Spring, and Madison Ramp. However, since the advisory only says “Elevated indicators of fecal bacteria” without saying what those indicators are, and I can find no actual data, I have left the Georgia “beaches” green for now: US 84 Landing and Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps.

[Swim Guide: red Withlacoochee River in Florida]
Swim Guide: red Withlacoochee River in Florida

Here’s the advisory, received today at 4:38 PM.

Until further information is known regarding possible bacterial contamination of the river, people in the area are urged to take precautions when in contact with the Withlacoochee River. The Florida Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection are conducting water sampling.

Indeed, little seems to be known.

[Possible Bacterial Contamination of Withlacoochee River]
Possible Bacterial Contamination of Withlacoochee River

I can only guess Madison and Hamilton Health Departments are concerned by all that rain upstream for the past week. That does usually wash E. coli into the Withlacoochee River.

[Rain for the past week]
Rain for the past week
For the complete WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida results and other context, see wwals.net/issues/testing/.

The most recent results published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) are for Thursday a week ago, July 2, and they were very good.

The most recent State Line result is the WWALS very good 33 cfu/100 mL E. coli from last Friday, July 3.

The most recent results from Valdosta are from Monday, July 6, only as far downstream as US 84, which was a good result. But notice Valdosta got a too-high 540 at US 41 (North Valdosta Road) back on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, and for that same day very high results on Okapilco Creek @ US 84. Nobody knew about either of those Valdosta results before the July 4 weekend, because Valdosta did not publish them until this week.

WWALS does have samples incubating that should be ready tomorrow for Crooked Creek in Brooks County, Georgia, which leads to Okapilco Creek and to the Withlacoochee River upstream of Knights Ferry Boat Ramp. I was mistaken about the WWALS samples for Crooked Creek: those are being collected today (Friday), along with some others today and tomorrow (Saturday).

WWALS testers will collect river samples tomorrow, and I won’t be surprised if they’re high in E. coli.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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4 thoughts on “Possible bacterial contamination, Withlacoochee River, Hamilton, Madison Co. FL 2020-07-09

  1. Loretta

    It might be getting time to ask for pinpointing the source(s), so active measures can be taken to reverse the runoff which is polluting these rivers and streams. When it comes to chem & microbiological pollution of our waters, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

  2. Ruthann Phenis

    Sadly, not surprised. Was waiting for it….noticed river level reading at Valdosta Skipper Bridge (Bemiss) had a 4ft rise in one day (when no other area did ! What the heck is constantly going on in that area??????!!!!!
    We are beyond “enough already”!

    1. jsq Post author

      Actually, water levels have been rising on all the Little and Withlacoochee River gauges:

      Some are already dropping again, since the rains have slacked off.

      What’s going on around Valdosta on the Withlacoochee River is the same thing
      that caused the “700-year” floods in 2009 and 2013: too much clearcutting
      and impervious surfaces (parking lots and roads).
      Local land use codes have mostly been updated to prevent some of that,
      but there are still plenty of roads and developments that were already there
      before those code changes.
      Also, upstream of Valdosta on the Withlacoochee River
      are horse farms, a dairy, and a hog farm. -jsq

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