Bad lower Suwannee, good Withlacoochee and Alapaha 2020-09-14

Update 2020-09-18: OK Withlacoochee River Quality, sewage spill Suwannee, FL, Suwannee River 2020-09-17

Sunday, Suzy Hall tested for WWALS at Sullivan Launch @ CR 15 on the Withlacoochee River, and got good results.

This despite a report of cows in a creek near the river just upstream in Hamilton County, Florida: that’s right, Florida, not Georgia.

Loretta Tennant’s WWALS results for the lower Suwannee were not so pretty.

And while Valdosta’s results for late last week corroborate those of WWALS and Madison Health, for Wedensday, September 2, Valdosta got bad results at State Line Boat Ramp.

[Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers]
Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers

Lower Suwannee River

Monday, September 14, 2020, Loretta Tennant tested again for WWALS at Fowlers Bluff Ramp.

[Fowlers Bluff Ramp 2029-09-14]
Fowlers Bluff Ramp 2029-09-14

Her Monday results were worse than a week ago: 933, which is well above the 410 one-time limit. Saturday a week ago (September 5) she got 633, which was bad enough, but this was worse.

[Repeated bad lower Suwannee]
Repeated bad lower Suwannee
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida results, see:

Worse, Monday at Manatee Springs State Park Launch she got 1,500, which is well above the 1,000 alert level.

[Manatee Springs State Park Launch 2020-09-14]
Manatee Springs State Park Launch 2020-09-14

Something is in the lower Suwannee River that is not fish.

[Bad downstream Suwannee River]
Bad downstream Suwannee River

Floridians, maybe you’d like to ask your elected and appointed officials to get FDEP to fund and organize regular, frequent, closely-spaced water quality testing all the way from the GA-FL line to the Gulf.

[Lower Suwannee River]
Lower Suwannee River
in the WWALS map of all public boat access in the Suwannee River Basin.

Manatee Springs State Park Ramp is to the right of the WWALS logo in the above map. Fowlers Bluff is directly below it.

Withlacoochee River

Suzy brought us good news from Sullivan Launch for Sunday, September 13, 2020.

[Sullivan Launch 2020-09-14]
Sullivan Launch 2020-09-14

She got only 66 cfu/100 mL E. coli, well within the average limit of 126.

[Plates, Sullivan Launch 2020-09-14]
Plates, Sullivan Launch 2020-09-14

As mentioned, Valdosta’s results for last week through Friday upstream (as far as US 84) and through Wednesday downstream (to the state line) corroborated the good results of WWALS and Madison Health.

However, the previous week did not fare so well.

[Bad State Line a week ago]
Bad State Line a week ago

Apparently the big rains upstream on both the Withlacoochee River and Okapilco Creek washed some Fecal coliform downstream. And at the state line on Wednesday, September 2, E. coli measured 620, which is not what you want in a river when you’re swimming, fishing, or boating.

Whatever it was apparently diluted or washed downstream by the next day, when both WWALS and Madison Health got good results from Knights Ferry all the way down to FL 6. This is yet another example of why all these results are advisory: conditions can change radically from one day to the next.

[Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers]
Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers
in the WWALS map of all public boat access in the Suwannee River Basin.

Sullivan Launch is to the right of the Suwannee Riverkeeper logo in the above map. Manatee Springs State Park Ramp is highlighted far down the Suwannee River, west of Chiefland.

Could that contamination have washed all the way down the Suwannee River to Fowlers Bluff by Saturday, September 5? That’s a long way for water to go in three days.

Is there any relation between the September 14th bad Lower Suwannee results and rains upstream on Okapilco Creek? It seems unlikely. It rained on the Suwannee River, too. More likely, something is getting into the Suwannee downstream.

Alapaha River

For the Alapaha River, we don’t have any new water quality testing results since last time.

However, so far we’ve never seen E. coli exceed the 410 one-time sample limit anywhere in the Alapaha even after heavy rains. I’d guess the Alapaha River has as many or more deer and turkey living next to it as the other rivers. Thus it seems that whatever is getting into the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers is probably not coming from wildlife.

More likely it’s coming from people and their livestock and domestic animals.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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