Tifton, Ashburn spills, bad downstream 2021-03-03

Update 2021-03-13: All clear, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-11.

Tifton and Ashburn, Georgia spilled raw sewage, March 3, 2021, both from places that had spilled before. For once we may have actually seen some of that in downstream water quality results. But they could not have caused the extremely high test result at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp that same day, nor the bad results into Florida the next day: those were most likely the usual cattle manure.

[Ashburn, Tifton spills and water quality]
Ashburn, Tifton spills and water quality

The high Fecal coliform at US 41 and GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River that same Wednesday could have been from the Tifton spill on the New River upstream, and the high E. coli at GA 133, all in Valdosta’s thrice-weekly testing. It’s about 64 river miles from 2406 N. Ridge Ave. to US 41, and about 70 miles to GA 133, but with the rivers high and fast, it’s conceivable a spill that started in the early morning (or the previous evening) could have moved downstream that fast.

Or with rains over an inch closer upstream on the Withlacoochee River, something else may have washed into the river. Or both.

The only way to be sure would be DNA tests. Valdosta is supposed to be doing those as part of the Consent Order. We are looking forward to seeing results.

[Pretty bad 2021-03-01-05]
Pretty bad 2021-03-01-05

The Ashburn spill into the Little River was even less likely to be the cause of any results downstream, because it was about 107 river miles upstream from US 84 on the Withlacoochee River, which was the first place testing was going on, also by Valdosta.

However, something sure got into the Withlacoochee starting at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, with an extremely high 5,700 cfu/100 mL E. coli found by Valdosta for that same day. Remember, Georgia Adopt-A-Stream’s alert limit is 1,000.

The next day Madison Health got higher than the one-time test limit of 410 at the state line, and higher downstream at Sullivan Launch and FL 6. WWALS tester Gus Cleary corroborated those results a bit farther downstream at his place below Allen Ramp.

[Map: Ashburn, Tifton spills, WLRWT]
Map: Ashburn, Tifton spills
in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail.

Fortunately, everything seemed to clear up by that Friday, as all that rain water diluted and flushed the various contaminations downstream. Once it reached the Suwannee River, it was probably diluted by the greater amount of rainwater in that flooded river.

But Tifton and Ashburn still need to get a grip on their sewage.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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