Monthly Archives: April 2021

Four U.S. Senators ask U.S. FWS to assist GA-EPD against mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-04-28

“Georgia’s senators want the federal government to get involved in the state’s review of a mine proposed at the doorstep of the East Coast’s largest wildlife refuge.”, James Marshall, E&E News, 30 April 2021, Senators worry about mine project near Okefenokee.

And you can still use the Waterkeeper Alliance action alert to Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp by sending a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division asking them to reject Twin Pines Minerals’ five permit applications, or at least to go through a full process to review them:
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures]
Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock also got Senators Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Tom Carper from Delaware to co-sign their letter of Wednesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s good they’re doing what many of us asked all the candidates to do in the Georgia Senate race last year.

Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 29 April 2021, U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff urge scrutiny of Okefenokee mining proposal.

The economy was on Warnock’s mind last week when he released a statement about the mining near the Okefenokee.

“I am a fierce champion for strengthening rural economies, and finding ways to ensure rural Georgians don’t just survive, but thrive,” he wrote. “At the same time, the Okefenokee is integral to the local ecology and economy, and we owe it to our planet and the communities that depend on the swamp to ensure its health and integrity for future generations. As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, I look forward to working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and engaging their expertise in these on-going conversations to make sure we protect this cherished Georgia landmark as we work to bring more good-paying jobs to our rural communities.”

Well, that’s good to hear. I look forward to the local Chambers and all the organizations concerned about the Swamp finding some businesses for Charlton County and other rural south Georgia and north Florida counties.

The Letter (PDF)

Continue reading

Much cleaner: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-29

Update 2021-05-03: Still clean Friday: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-30.

Despite a Quitman sewage spill last weekend, the Withlacoochee River was already much cleaner Wednesday, as found by WWALS tester Gus Cleary at Cleary Bluff below Allen Ramp. He got similar results for Thursday, confirmed by Valdosta’s upstream results for Wednesday, and Madison Health’s Florida results for Thursday.

How can this be? The massive upstream rains Saturday are coming down the rivers now, washing the contamination downstream and diluting it.

While Madison and Hamilton Counties, Florida, will probably leave their health alert in place until they get a second clean set of Florida results, I’d feel comfortable now with boating, swimming, or fishing in the Withlacoochee River.

I’d still wait a day or so for the Suwannee River downstream of the Withlacoochee.

[Results, Plates, Swim Guide]
Results, Plates, Swim Guide

We don’t have any new data for Knights Ferry or Nankin Boat Ramps (our usual testers are off this week, after discovering this problem Monday). So those two locations still show Continue reading

Health alert for Withlacoochee River 2021-04-27

Update 2021-04-30: Much cleaner: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-29.

Received 4:17 PM yesterday, April 28, 2021: “The Florida Department of Health in Hamilton and Madison counties have issued a health alert for the Withlacoochee River, April 28, 2021.”

[Bad State Line to FL 6, Swim Guide red, Health alert]
Bad State Line to FL 6, Swim Guide red, Health alert

That was after FDEP published the Madison Health downstream results for Tuesday, which, while not as bad as the WWALS results for Monday, were still above the 410 colony-forming units per 100 mililiter (cfu/100 mL) limit for of E. coli in a single sample.

The cause? Very likely agriculture, as in cattle manure, maybe horses, likely some wild hogs, plus cats, dogs, chickens, deer, and sheep. No, it’s almost certainly not the tiny and mostly-vacuumed Valdosta FOG Manhole sewage spill of Monday. Don’t be surprised if spills from elsewhere start showing up last on the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. But those still probably won’t be the main problem, given how widespread the contamination is.

The good news is still that Continue reading

Owen Smith Cemetery near Boys Ranch, Hahira, GA 2021-04-26

This is the family cemetery of an early settler family. Starting in 1835, Owen Smith owned land on both sides of the Withlacoochee River and east to Cat Creek and at least briefly across that, too, totalling more than 3,000 acres, according to the Wiregrass Region Digital History Project. It is called the Owen Smith Cemetery by FindaGrave.com.

[Iron fence, 14:31:07, 31.0265649, -83.2880907]
Iron fence, 14:31:07, 31.0265649, -83.2880907

Or earlier, since according to the apparently well-documented Smith-Gray-Dupree family tree on ancestry.com, Owen Smith married Jemima K. Mathis in Lowndes County, Georgia. They were not original settlers, since Lowndes County was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 1825, but they were apparently the first settler holders of much of that land.

The tallest remaining headstone is for Jemima Mathis Smith. The broken one near it was apparently Owen Smith’s. He was born 26 February 1810 in Columbus, North Carolina, died in Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 8 September 1901. Continue reading

Bad upstream, too: Withlacoochee River water quality 2021-04-26

Update 2021-04-29: Health alert for Withlacoochee River 2021-04-27.

Valdosta results for Monday are just as bad upstream as the WWALS downstream results.

So indeed it’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River for a few days, with bacterial counts this high for April 26, 2021. This is not a good time for boating, fishing, or swimming in the river.

The worse news is that since the Withlacoochee River was contaminated Monday at least as far upstream as US 41, that mess will keep running downstream for probably a day or so, as in it’s probably in Florida today.

The good news is that it’s not nearly as bad as a year ago under similar conditions.

[Bad upstream, water quality results and Swim Guide]
Bad upstream, water quality results and Swim Guide

Thanks to Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson for posting the Valdosta results.

We are still waiting for Madison Health’s downstream results from Tuesday.

One of our WWALS testers also drew a farther downstream sample today.

Until those or later tests show clear, better safe than sorry.

This time it can’t be just cattle manure coming down Okapilco Creek out of Brooks County, Georgia, because all three of Valdosta’s Monday results are for upstream of there. But there is a dairy and a hog farm on the Withlacoochee River upstream of Lowndes County, and at least three horse farms near the river in Lowndes County, plus many cats, dogs, chickens, deer, and septic tanks. Some of their manure was no doubt washed into the creeks and rivers by the Saturday rain. I also won’t be surprised if in a few days we start seeing sewage late reports on the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

This contamination is almost certainly not from the tiny FOG spill Valdosta had Friday. That one wasn’t anywhere near big enough, and US 41 is upstream of Sugar Creek, anyway. Continue reading

Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch WPCP 2021-04-26

A local and Georgia state institution since 1960, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch on GA 122 east of Hahira and just east of the Withlacoochee River has a wastewater treatment pond, which has never reported a spill.

[Entrance arch, WPCP, Founded 1960]
Entrance arch, WPCP, Founded 1960

According to GA-EPD, it has sufficient capacity that it probably never will.

Nonetheless, Monday I went to look at that pond of NPDES Permit No. GA0047228. Thanks to the front office (she did not say her name) for asking the maintenance man (I think she said his name was Mike) to show me the pond. Continue reading

Very bad water quality: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-26

Update 2021-04-28: Bad upstream, too: Withlacoochee River water quality 2021-04-26.

It’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River for a few days, with bacterial counts this high in the samples WWALS testers Michael and Jacob Bachrach took yesterday (Monday). This is not a good time for boating, fishing, or swimming in the river.

[Bad results, Petrifilms, River, Swim Guide]
Bad results, Petrifilms, River, Swim Guide

Probably Madison Health tested today, and we may see results via FDEP tomorrow. But at least until then, better safe than sorry.

This river contamination is most likely the usual cattle manure (and plus some wild hog manure) washed into the creeks and rivers by the Saturday rain. It is almost certainly not from the tiny FOG spill Valdosta had Friday. Continue reading

Pictures: Banks Lake Full Pink Moon Paddle 2021-04-26

A perfect evening, with a supermoon, which for a change rose before the sun set.

[Moon, boaters, banners]
Moon, boaters, banners

Seventeen people paddled out on Banks Lake to see the Full Pink Moon, on a weekday evening, yesterday, Monday, April 27, 2021. Continue reading

Valdosta FOG Manhole sewage spill 2021-04-26

This Valdosta sewage spill on Saturday was very small, mostly vacuumed up by the city, and unlikely to get the 1.89 miles down Onemile Branch to Sugar Creek, and the 1.85 miles farther to the Withlacoochee River. I think we can all agree that nobody wants sewage spills caused by Fats, Oils, or Greases. Also don’t dump your face masks into storm drains or waterways.

[FOG in manhole, 1400 Williams Street spill site, creeks to Withlacoochee River]
FOG in manhole, 1400 Williams Street spill site, creeks to Withlacoochee River

Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson prepended this note with the picture you see below: “It is important to note that while this did happen over the weekend, it was not a weather related incident. For our media partners, I am attaching an example of a previous grease blockage in our system so that you can get a visual of how grease build up can block pipes, ultimately leading to a manhole overflow.”

Continue reading

Cancelled due to weather: BIG Little River Paddle Race

Adel, Georgia, April 25, 2021 — Because of predicted water level rise and dirt shuttle roads being too muddy and treacherous to drive, the BIG Little River Paddle Race is cancelled.

Yesterday, due to predicted heavy rain, Bret Wagenhorst postponed BLRPR to this afternoon. But today, after still more rain last night, and despite a nice sunny day today, conditions are still not favorable, as described above.

So Dr. Wagenhorst says: “I am officially and finally cancelling this year’s BIG Little River Paddle Race. I hate to do this but paddler safety is paramount.”

[USGS Folsom Bridge Little River gauge near Hahira 2021-04-25 09:15]
USGS Folsom Bridge Little River gauge near Hahira 2021-04-25 09:15
USGS Folsom Bridge Little River Hahira Gauge 2021-04-25 09:15

I think we can all agree safety first. For next year, WWALS and FORB and the park will be evaluating how best to handle this sort of situation.

However, so decisions can be made, One person is in charge of rescheduling or cancelling BLRPR, and all three organizations involved support his decision.

Tomorrow, Monday, April 26, 2021, WWALS has the Banks Lake Full Pink Moon Paddle, to watch the sun set and the moon rise, and maybe see bats. To join us for this leisurely paddle on a flat lake, please be there by 7:15 PM, at Banks Lake Boat Ramp, 307 Georgia 122, Lakeland, GA 31635.

Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB) is Continue reading