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.
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 red on Swim Guide, while all the other WWALS “beaches” on the Withlacoochee River show green.
We also don’t have any new data for the Little, Alapaha, or Suwannee Rivers, but we’re guessing they’re probably also clean. For the Suwannee, probably clean at least upstream of the Withlacoochee River Confluence. Downstream, we don’t know how far that contamination has gone.
Sure would be great if the state of Florida could test from the state line to the Gulf. If Valdosta can do it three times a week on 40 river miles to the state line, Florida could do the rest. Maybe you’d like to ask your members of the Florida legislature to make that so.
You can see on the chart how Gus Cleary’s results fit neatly between the Valdosta and Madison Health results.
The Ashburn report is pretty specific about where the spill was. That’s so far up the Alapaha River it probably had little downstream effect, but we have no data to know.
The Quitman report is pretty vague: “lift station”? Where? Since GA-EPD still does not require a specific street address or latlong in spill reports, we don’t know.
I’m guessing it’s the South Highland Road lift station, as in the December 9, 2020, Quitman spill.
That previous Quitman spill never seemed to have any effect on Okapilco Creek or the Withlacoochee River, probably because it is so far inland from either. I suspect people who live nearby are not very pleased, however.
So where did the contamination come from this time, since it apparently did not come from sewage spills? Probably the usual cattle manure, plus horses, sheep, deer, and wild hogs, plus cats, dogs, chickens, and people near the river.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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