Sewage Spills: Quitman, Valdosta, Tifton 2021-01-03

Update 2021-01-06: Bad up and down: Withlacoochee River 2021-01-05.

Tifton spilled raw sewage three times over the weekend, all into the New River, upstream of the Withlacoochee River. As already reported, Valdosta spilled into Knights Creek, which goes into Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River just above Sasser Landing. We have no water quality data downstream of any of those spills.

Plus Quitman finally reported a spill from more than a week ago, but downstream water quality on the Withlacoochee River the next day was actually better than the day before.

However, the big rains in between drove plenty of contamination, probably mostly cow, pig, and horse manure, into the Withlacoochee, with even Madison Health showing too-high E. coli at State Line for December 29, 2020.

The even bigger rains this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday probably have done the same.

So I’d recommend avoiding not just the Withlacoochee River, but also the Alapaha River for a few days, until better test results come in.

[Spills and little data]
Spills and little data

The one recent datapoint we have is WWALS tester Tasha Ekman LaFace’s record-high for that location 1,333 cfu/100 mL E. coli at Naylor Park Beach on the Alapaha River, just upstream from US 84. But that can’t be from the Valdosta sewage spill, since Naylor Beach is way upstream of the Alapahoochee River Confluence with the Alapaha River. However, Naylor Beach is not a long way downstream from Lakeland, so it will be interesting if we hear about any spills from there.

[Tifton and Valdosta spills, 2021-01-02-03]
Tifton and Valdosta spills, 2021-01-02-03
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida water quality results, rainfall, and spills, see:
https://www1.wwals.netissues/testing/

The Quitman spill showed up yesterday in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report, for December 22, 2020, at 805 S Culpepper Street, Quitman, with a still-unknown amount of raw sewage spilled, for unknown causes. The report says Quitman is in the Ochlockonee River Basin, which is of course wrong. It says the Waterway Impacted was “Pride Branch draining ditch.” Pride Branch drains into Piscola Creek, which joins Okapilco Creek just before Okapilco Creek enters the Withlacoochee River upstream of Knights Ferry Boat Ramp. As you can see, Madison Health’s downstream results that same day were within bounds, and Valdosta’s results from Knights Ferry downstream were even better. So maybe Quitman cleaned it all up.

[Quitman spill, Pride Branch, Piscola Creek 2020-12-22]
Quitman spill, Pride Branch, Piscola Creek 2020-12-22

However, the big rains on Thursday, December 24, 2020, showed up in WWALS downstream results as already reported, with too-high results at both Knights Ferry and Nankin Boat Ramps. Valdosta’s results for Monday, December 28, showed too high at Nankin. More unusual, Madison Health got 414 at State Line for Tuesday, December 29, which is above the 410 one-time sample limit.

[Bad up and down]
Bad up and down

Then for Wednesday, December 30, Valdosta got horrid results upstream at US 41, GA 133, and US 84.

So this is about the worst Swim Guide map we’ve had in a while: bad up and downstream on the Withlacoochee River. Many of the “beaches” show yellow rather than red because it’s now been more than a week since any data, so they’re showing historically bad.

[Map: Swim Guide]
Map: Swim Guide

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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