Quitman, GA, April 2020 spill cause of contamination in Withlacoochee River? 2020-04-24

The recent Georgia spills are now in the WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida water quality data.

Other than the very large December 2019 Valdosta spill, none of the spills (except one) obviously correlate with high E. coli as tested.

Which one? The April 24, 2020, Quitman spill, which may have been seen four days later at Running Springs on the Suwannee River.

[Withlacoochee, Quitman spill, Running Springs, Suwannee]
Withlacoochee, Quitman spill, Running Springs, Suwannee

Alapaha River Spills: Rochelle and Ashburn

About the Rochelle and Ashburn spills into the Alapaha basin, we just don’t have enough data to say anything.

Tifton Spill

The Tifton spill of June 18 into the New River doesn’t seem to correlate with anything downstream, unless we assume it took six days for to travel 32 miles down the New River and another 30 miles down the Withlacoochee River to reach US 41 on the Withlacoochee, and then it only showed up as high Fecal coliform, not high E. coli.

Adel Spills

The Adel spills of 23-24 April conceivably could have made it to US 84 on the Withlacoochee by 25 April. That’s 7.15 Bear Creek miles and 44.85 Withlacoochee River miles or 52 total. There was a lot of rain. Two days or 48 hours would require the water to move barely more than a mile an hour. That’s an interesting question for the scientists among us. We don’t know what happened at US 41 or GA 133, because Valdosta didn’t report those locations for Friday, 24 April 2020 (or Monday, April 27, 2020).

Quitman Spill

But there’s one that does correlate big-time: the Quitman spill of 87,000 gallons on Friday 24 April. The location given was vague, near GA 76, which is Highland Avenue in Quitman. I’m assuming that means the Highland Ave. settling ponds, same location as the big Quitman January 2019 spill, at about Okapilco Creek mile 5. Notice this is not the Quitman Land Application Site (LAS or spray field), which is south of US 84 just west of Okapilco Creek. High bacterial results at US 84 on Okapilco Creek thus could not indicate a spill from the LAS, but could be relevant to a spill from those Highland Ave. settling ponds.

[Quitman spill near GA 76 into Okapilco Creek]
Quitman spill near GA 76 into Okapilco Creek

That would explain the 6,000 E. coli in Okapilco Creek @ US 84 that same day, little more than a mile downstream. The 15,000 at Knights Ferry the same day makes me wonder if the spill really started the previous day. Well, but 5 Okapilco Creek miles plus 3.65 more down the Withlacoochee to KF is only 8.65 river miles, which wouldn’t take very long, probably less than half a day.

[Quitman downstream to Running Springs]
Quitman downstream to Running Springs
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida water quality data, see
https://wwals.net/issues/testing/.

On the same Friday, the contamination had already reached Nankin with 5,200 and State Line with 1,000. It’s another 15.49 river miles from KF to State Line, but that’s only 24 water miles downstream from the spill. The water only had to be moving about one mile an hour for the leading edge to get to State Line within a day.

On Saturday, WWALS got 900 on Okapilco Creek @ US 84, so apparently it had mostly moved downstream by then.

Nobody sampled that Sunday.

On Monday, 27 April, Valdosta got 440 at Nankin but below 410 upstream and downstream.

On Tuesday, 28 April, FDOH got acceptable levels at State Line, CR 150, and FL 6, indicating it must have already gone downstream from FL 6.

From Knights Ferry on Friday past FL 6 on Tuesday is more than 31 river miles. However, the water had about 4 days or 96 hours. So sure, it could have already passed FL 6 by Tuesday.

[Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail]
Quitman in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

How about the reported contamination that same Tuesday, 28 April, at Running Springs on the Suwannee?

[Brown water with foam]
Photo: Patterson Wall, of Brown water with foam on the Suwannee River near Running Springs, April 28, 2020.

Knights Ferry is Withlacoochee River mile 43.28. The Withlacoochee Confluence is Suwannee River mile 127.79, and Running Springs is around mile 99, for 28.79 Suwannee River miles. So about 43.28 + 28.79 is about 72 river miles. That’s only a mile an hour for three days, and less for four days.

[Cook County Boat Ramp to Running Springs]
Cook County Boat Ramp to Running Springs

All the way to the Gulf?

We don’t know how much farther that contamination may have gone down the Suwannee River. In an earlier episode with too-high E. coli at Knights, Nankin, and State Line on February 26, 2020, SRWMD saw 980 cfu/100 mL E. coli at the Hal W. Adams bridge (just below Running Springs) on February 29. That’s three days, just like what we see for February

[2020-03-01 Suwannee river downstream]
2020-03-01 Suwannee river downstream
The entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of all known data sources is on the WWALS google drive.
For context, see https://wwals.net/issues/testing/.

SRWMD predicted that contamination would reach the Gulf by March 4, with Suwannee River water velocites of between 1 and 1.5 miles per hour. That’s four more days from that bridge to the Gulf.

A more direct comparison would require checking water levels and flow. However, if the April contamination took four more days from Running Springs to reach the Gulf, it got there about May 3, 2020.

[Downstream to the Gulf]
Downstream to the Gulf
In the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

What about that 440 at Nankin?

What about the 440 at Nankin on Monday 27 April 2020? Was that coming down from the 1200 @ US 84 on the Friday? If so, why did it take 2 days or 48 hours to travel 15 river miles? Maybe that Nankin hot spot was something else that came down Okapilco Creek on the weekend?

Correlation is not causation, but….

Anyway, it’s hard not to see the Friday, April 24, Quitman spill as the cause of the very high numbers on Okapilco Creek and the Withlacoochee River that same day. And that contamination could have reached Running Spring on the Suwannee by the Tuesday.

As it happens, we did not know about the Friday high numbers until about a week later, because it took that long for Valdosta to get around to posting them.

Nobody noticed the Quitman spill, which didn’t show up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report until Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Then it was entered with Quitman as in DeKalb County, GA. GA-EPD did have the basin as Suwannee and the affected waterway as Okapilco Creek, with the Quitman NPDES permit number, so we can be sure it was the Quitman in Brooks County, Georgia. I have updated the WWALS scripts to catch such things and to automatically send an email alert.

2020-04-29–GA-EPD-Sewage-Spills-Report.html by WWALS Watershed Coalition; see https://wwals.net/issues/vww/ga-spills
FACILITY NAMEBEGIN DATECOUNTYCITYOVERFLOW LOCATIONQUANTITY GALLONSOVERFLOW TYPEPERMIT NUMBERSPILL SOURCESPILL PRIMARY CAUSERIVER BASINWATERWAY IMPACTED
Posting Date[2020-04-28] WWALS logo Suwannee Riverkeeper logo You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!
Posting Date[2020-04-29] WWALS logo Suwannee Riverkeeper logo You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!
Savannah, City of (President Street WRF)2020-04-28ChathamSavannah205 Lyman Hall – Long Point – Whitemarsh Island1,540Raw SewageWWRFPipe failureSavannahWilmington River
Dekalb County (Snapfinger Creek WPCP)2020-04-27DeKalbChamblee3425 Malone Drive, Chamblee14,920Raw SewageGA0024147Collection SystemDebrisChattahoocheeNancy Creek Tributary C
Dekalb County (Snapfinger Creek WPCP)2020-04-27DeKalbStone Mountain1019 Fellsridge Court, Stone Mountain50Raw SewageGA0024147Collection SystemRootsOcmulgeeSnapfinger Creek Tributary
Adel, City of (Adel WPCP)2020-04-24CookAdel301 & 307 South Brookside Drive, Adel5,000Raw SewageGA0024911Collection SystemEquipment failureSuwanneeBear Creek
Quitman, City of (Quitman WPCP)2020-04-24DeKalbQuitmanHwy 76, Quitman GA87,000Raw SewageGAJ020022Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeOkapilco Creek
Vidalia (South WPCP)2020-04-24ToombsVidalia3 separate spills all on Dickerson Dr. in Vidalia: 415 Dickerson Dr. (Residential Clean-Out) – 15,297 gallons Dickerson Dr. (Manhole A) – 40,250 gallons Dickerson Dr. (Manhole B) – 19,400 gallons74,947Raw SewageCollection SystemWet weatherSatillaSwift Creek
Adel, City of (Adel WPCP)2020-04-23CookAdel102 N Brookside Drive, Adel6,000Raw SewageGA0024911Collection SystemWet weatherSuwanneeBear Creek
Vidalia (South WPCP)2020-04-23ToombsVidalia5 separate spills in the Vidalia LAS collection system. LS 26 – 91,900 gallons Vann St. Ext. – 286,500 gallons Harris Ind. Blvd. – 80,550 gallons North Maple Dr. – 24,700 gallons 819 Barksdale Dr. – 58,643 gallons542,293Raw SewageCollection SystemWet weatherSatillaRocky Creek
Eatonton – Putnam Water & Sewer Authority (Westside WPCP)2020-04-20PutnamEatontonSplitter Box in WWTP10,000Raw SewageGA0032263WWTPWet weatherOconeeun-named tributary
Eatonton – Putnam Water & Sewer Authority (Eastside WPCP)2020-04-20PutnamEatontonManhole 20610,000Raw SewageGA0032271Collection SystemWet weatherOconeeun-named tributary to Rooty Creek
Eatonton – Putnam Water & Sewer Authority (Westside WPCP)2020-04-20PutnamEatontonSplitter Box in WWTP10,000Raw SewageGA0032263WWTPWet weatherOconeeun-named tributary
Eatonton – Putnam Water & Sewer Authority (Eastside WPCP)2020-04-20PutnamEatontonManhole 20610,000Raw SewageGA0032271Collection SystemWet weatherOconeeun-named tributary to Rooty Creek
Dekalb County (Snapfinger Creek WPCP)2020-03-28DeKalbDoraville2849 Briarglen Drive, Doraville30Raw SewageGA0024147Collection SystemRootsChattahoocheePeachtree Branch

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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