Very bad, health advisory, Withlacoochee River 2021-01-28

Update 2021-02-01: Bad State Line, Withlacoochee River 2021-01-30.

Best avoid the Withlacoochee River for a few days. It rained more Wednesday than last Friday, and this time something definitely washed into the river, confirmed Thursday by both WWALS testers Josh and Angela Duncan and by Madison Health, published by FDEP. Madison and Hamilton Health have published a health advisory for the Withlacoochee River.

[Chart, plate, advisory, Swim Guide map]
Chart, plate, advisory, Swim Guide map

Given that more rain is expected Sunday, it might be prudent to stay off the river until sunny next week.

[Very bad, Knights Ferry, Nankin, State Line]
Very bad, Knights Ferry, Nankin, State Line
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida water quality results, rainfall, and spills, see:

When there large numbers of E. coli colonies develop on Petrifilms in WWALS testing, different testers often get slightly different numbers. Here we went with the most conservative totals for each three sets of plates, and the resulting numbers are horrible enough.

This was the worst plate, the Duncans’ #3 plate from Nankin Boat Ramp. Different testers counted 47, 43, and 50 colonies (blue with bubbles).

[Nankin #3 2021-01-28]
Nankin #3 2021-01-28

The Swim Guide map shows red only for Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps, because those are the three locations for which we have results too high.

However, it’s a safe bet that water flows downstream and carries contamination with it, so I’d avoid the Withlacoochee River below the GA-FL line, as well.

[Swim Guide]
Swim Guide

Where is this contamination coming from? As previously discussed, according to FDEP DNA marker and chemical tracer data, apparently mostly from ruminants. Of those the most numerous hereabouts are cattle. We do not have more DNA or tracer data for this recent rain event, but there is no reason to believe it will be much different in effect.

Also, no new sewage spills have been reported in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia, in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report. (Which doesn’t mean there weren’t any, considering that certain cities can take quite a while to report.)

We have no new data for the Alapaha River, but you can see that rainfall there was also quite high, so this would not be a good time to boat there, either.

And yes, downstream from both the Withlacoochee and the Alapaha is the Suwannee River, which has its own sources of contamination to add.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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