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 it’s not nearly as bad as under similar conditions a year ago.

[Bad into Florida]
Bad into Florida
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida water quality results, rainfall, and spills, see:

WWALS will be testing again. And probably Madison Health will test Thursday and report Friday. Most likely the health advisory will remain in effect until FDEP posts two in a row good results in Florida.

[Withlacoochee River Alert 2021-04-28]
Withlacoochee River Alert 2021-04-28

Meanwhile, we have no new downstream results from Valdosta. It’s curious how WWALS and Madison Health can consistently report downstream results the next day, but Valdosta’s contractor cannot.

Meanwhile, I’ve marked red on Swim Guide all the WWALS “beaches” on the Withlacoochee River. We have no new results for the Little River, so those look green, but I wouldn’t go there today. Ditto the one Suwannee River beach at Gibson Park is still marked historic yellow for mixed results, but given the heavy rain Saturday upstream, I’d wait a day or two. Those paddling way up in the Okefenokee Swamp are probably good, though, because there’s nothing upstream to wash into it.


[Swim Guide red 2021-04-27]
Swim Guide red 2021-04-27

But since the Suwannee River drains the vast majority of the Swamp’s water, that proposed titanium mine within three miles of the Swamp could affect the River.

You can still ask the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to stop that mine:

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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