Monthly Archives: June 2021

Filthy GA-FL Line, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-26

Update 2021-07-02: Clean Rivers after Tuesday blip and before Thursday rains 2021-07-01.

Sewage spills were reported last week, but not from Georgia: Florida State Prison Tuesday into the New River (of the Santa Fe), and Starke WWTF Saturday above the Santa Fe River. I must commend FDEP for sending out pollution notices on a Sunday, and Starke WWTF for reporting on a weekend. We don’t know what effect those spills had on those rivers, because so far as we know nobody tests there.

Floridians, please ask SRWMD and FDEP to test water quality frequently on all the rivers, all the way to the Gulf, instead of wasting money on water pipe boondoggles.

Meanwhile on the Withlacoochee River for Saturday, Suzy Hall found State Line Boat Ramp filthy, yet Florida Campsites downstream pretty clean. Gus Cleary found Cleary Bluff below Allen Ramp spotless for Friday and with only one spot for Saturday.

How can it be dirty upstream but clean downstream? With all this recent rain, the rivers are moving fast, and a glob of E. coli can flit right past in a few hours.

We can also hope much of the cattle manure has already been washed off. See also Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27.

We have no data from Valdosta more recent than for Monday, and nothing from Madison Health more recent than Tuesday. Meanwhile, WWALS testers wanted to know, so you could know.

I’d still be wary of the Withlacoochee River until we see repeated clean State Line results. Continue reading

Worse than Falling Creek: SRWMD wants to pipe Suwannee River water twice to Ichetucknee Springs 2021-06-08

Four years ago SRWMD proposed to pipe Suwannee River water from near White Springs to a sinkhole near Falling Creek to replenish the Ichetucknee River. Now the District has come up with something worse: not one, but two pipelines, adding one from Branford, both to spread water on the ground nearer the Ichetucknee headspring. SRWMD told reporters these were just tentative plans, but SRWMD’s own slides lay out a process just like four years ago when a plan was rubberstamped by SRWMD and SJRWMD despite numerous objections. Head it off now!

Here are some easier, less costly, and simpler methods than pipeline boondoggles: send pine plantation ditch water into the aquifer; three ways to limit water withdrawals, and Right to Clean Water.

[Map: Recharge %]
Map: Recharge % in SRWMD’s slides Prevention and Recovery Strategy for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers and Priority Springs.

What we wrote four years ago applies twice as much this time:

“The Falling Creek project has very large up-front expense, involves environmental risk in running a large-diameter pipe through wetlands, and has high maintenance cost. In addition it only benefits the Ichetucknee Springs watershed. It is seasonal, for instance at the water levels now in the Suwannee, there is no water to pump to Falling Creek.”

Back then we included in our comments to SRWMD a much simpler and less costly proposal Continue reading

Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27

Update 2021-06-28: Filthy GA-FL Line, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-26.

Most Withlacoochee River contamination comes from cattle manure runoff, according to extensive testing. Yet there is the myth that every problem with the Withlacoochee River comes from Valdosta sewage. Actually, Valdosta has not had a spill that got into the river in more than a year and a half.

Other cities do have sewage spills (especially Quitman), which do cause problems. But when the rivers have E. coli after big rains, it usually comes from cattle manure runoff.

Most of the time our rivers are clean, and here’s how we know that.

[Map: Quitman, Valdosta, Okapilco Creek, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee-River]
Map: Quitman, Valdosta, Okapilco Creek, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee-River in the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

These questions from a year ago still reflect many we get to this day: Continue reading

Filthy at Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-24

Update 2021-06-27: Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27.

Going by WWALS water quality testing results for Thursday, it’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River, and maybe the Alapaha River, for a few more days.

[Bad Knights Ferry and Willacoochee Landing]
Bad Knights Ferry and Willacoochee Landing

Very unusual: too-high E. coli on the Alapaha River, at Willacoochee Landing on GA 135 in Atkinson County, Georgia. Thanks to WWALS tester Valerie Folsom. There was a lot of rain upstream in the previous few days, which make me wonder about the city of Alapaha’s wastewater treatment plant.

Unfortunately expected: way-high E. coli on the Withlacoochee River, at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, downstream of Okapilco Creek, with many thousand cattle in Brooks County, Georgia. Thanks to WWALS tester Michael Bachrach. Don’t be surprised if Quitman had a spill and gets around to reporting it about a week later.

Somewhat puzzling: downstream on the Withlacoochee results range from acceptable to clean as a whistle at Cleary Bluff, between Allen Ramp and the Suwannee River. Thaks to WWALS tester Gus Cleary. Even with the river high and fast after the recent rains, it takes a little while for the contamination to wash downstream. Three inches of rain fell in Brooks County Thursday, so don’t be surprised if things get dirty downstream.

We have no new data upstream of Knights Ferry, because we had a technical glitch with upstream WWALS tests.

Meanwhile, Valdosta has posted nothing newer than for Monday. They did catch up to last week with the downstream data, which corroborated what we already knew from WWALS tests.

The Tuesday too-high Madison Health result for the state line still has not appeared on the FDEP website. Continue reading

Suwannee River Sill, Griffis Fish Camp 2019-12-08

The water gates at the Suwannee River Sill are always open, despite the widespread Florida myth that in big rains Georgia opens them to flood Florida.

[The Sill is always open for Suwannee River water, 09:50:32, 30.804, -82.4177]
The Sill is always open for Suwannee River water, 09:50:32, 30.8040000, -82.4177000

These pictures are from camping two nights at Griffis Fish Camp.

See also the WWALS map of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, extended into Georgia. Continue reading

Health Advisory, Withlacoochee River, bad at GA-FL line after rains 2021-06-22

Update 2021-06-25 Filthy at Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-24.

Unfortunately as expected, the recent rains have washed Fecal coliform and E. coli into the Withlacoochee River. The Madison County, Florida, Health Department has issued an advisory of possible bacterial contamination. I wouldn’t want to get that river water on me until better results are seen. It’s most likely both upstream and downstream of the one datapoint Madison Health collected, which is for the GA-FL line. Better wait a few days before swimming, fishing, or boating on the Withlacoochee River.

[Bacterial Advisory, TNTC and 800 cfu/100 mL, Red State Line on Swim Guide]
Bacterial Advisory, TNTC and 800 cfu/100 mL, Red State Line on Swim Guide

The contamination most likely comes from the usual source: cattle manure, mostly washing off of open pastures in Brooks County, Georgia, down Okapilco Creek.

But we do not really know, because the only data we have for this week is the one report by Madison Health for yesterday, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. We only know that much because Madison County Chairman Donnie Waldrep Sr. posted it on his facebook page. It does not yet appear on the public web page of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The most recent data we have for Valdosta is from last week, before the rains, and only for US 41, GA 133, and US 84, all upstream of where Okapilco Creek enters the Withlacoochee River. The last downstream data Valdosta has published is for two weeks ago, Monday, June 7, 2021.

I hear Valdosta wants people downstream in Florida to understand that recent contamination is not coming from Valdosta. Well, timely publishing that downstream data would help with that.

Not publishing that data until weeks later could give the impression that Valdosta does not care about people downstream. Continue reading

Georgia Power Grants Again to WWALS for Water Quality Testing 2021-06-21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (PDF)

Another Generous Water Quality Testing Grant from Georgia Power to WWALS

Valdosta, GA, June 23, 2021 — “It’s really exciting to receive another generous grant from Georgia Power to help us continue with as well as increase our testing base,” said WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall. “This is huge towards helping to keep tabs on the water health for this watershed.”

[Presentation and Play, Alapaha River, Naylor Beach]
WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman receives the envelope from Mary Beth and Elizabeth Brownlee via Hazel, Elleanor and Lindsey Williams; back: Suzy and Abbie Hall, at Naylor Beach on the Alapaha River in Naylor Boat Ramp Park, Lowndes County, Georgia. More pictures here:
https://wwals.net/pictures/gretchen/2021-06-21–wwals-naylor-ga-power/

“The Georgia Power Foundation is committed to environmental stewardship and supports efforts focused on improving waterways, lakes and streams across Georgia,” said Georgia Power Southwest Director Joe Brownlee, “We’ve learned that we can do more when we work together with local organizations where we serve, so we felt that supporting the WWALS efforts to perform quality testing in our local watershed fit perfectly with our goals. I think it goes without saying that we all want clean water to drink, bathe, and occasionally even play in. At Georgia Power, we have an employee volunteer organization called the ‘Citizens of Georgia Power’; one of the projects that they chose to work on this year was a clean-up on the Alapaha River landing in Lakeland. So when WWALS reached out and said they had a clean-up in Naylor it seemed like a great project, and thanks to the testing kits we knew the water was clean, which allowed our treasures (our children) to play a little while we cleaned up.”

“Clean water is a benefit to everyone,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “The grant presentation by Elizabeth Brownlee was non-traditional, but most exceptional. The envelope got a little wet as it passed through little hands and got dropped in the water, however, the result was excellent. Funding for a second year for the WWALS water quality testing program is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Georgia Power!”

“We are thrilled that, Continue reading

WWALS Watershed Coalition Is Suwannee Riverkeeper

WWALS Vision: A healthy watershed with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable water.

[WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) is Suwannee Riverkeeper]


Help Suwannee Riverkeeper save the Okefenokee Swamp: you can object to a titanium strip mine proposed far too near the Swamp.

Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save the Okefenokee Swamp


Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest: Send in your song now! Or come to the Finals in August in Valdosta and hear new songs about our rivers, springs, swamps, and sinks.

Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest

Need swimming, diving, tubing, water skiing, or rapids pictures and locations: to help reclassify our rivers in Georgia as Recreational for tighter restrictions on contamination.

Reclassify as Recreationa: rivers, swamps, Suwannee River Basin


WWALS Mission: WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS), established June 2012, is Continue reading

Clean eleven sites: Withlacoochee, Little, and Alapaha Rivers 2021-06-17

Update 2021-06-23: Health Advisory, Withlacoochee River, bad at GA-FL line after rains 2021-06-22.

All clear up and down the Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers, for Thursday, June 17, 2021. Happy swimming, boating, and fishing!

Rains are predicted for this weekend, so of course conditions could change rapidly, but that’s what we know now.

[Chart, Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha Rivers, Swim Guide]
Chart, Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha Rivers, Swim Guide

Thanks to WWALS testers, we have results from eleven locations on three rivers.

  • Valerie Folsom (Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135 in Atkinson County, GA),
  • Elizabeth Brunner (GA 122: Little River @ Folsom Bridge Landing, Withlacoochee River @ Hagan Bridge Landing, Alapaha River @ Lakeland Boat Ramp
  • Bobby McKenzie (Little River @ Troupville Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee River @ US 41 and GA 133)
  • Michael and Jacob Bachrach (Withlacoochee River @ Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps)
  • Gus Cleary (Withlacoochee River @ Cleary Bluff, below Allen Ramp, almost to the Suwannee River)

And of course thanks to WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall for organizing and to WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman for training and supplying the testers. Continue reading

Bill Gates, farms, rivers, springs

The NBC News story has legs.

Rebecca Heilweil, Vox, 11 June 2021, The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US: People are drawing connections between Gates’s vast farmlands and climate change advocacy.

One Georgia farmer and environmental advocate, John Quarterman, told NBC that while he expected that Gates would encourage more sustainable practices after buying farmland nearby, his acquisition of that land didn’t change much. And the National Farmers Union has suggested that the growing number of non-farmer owners like Gates buying up farmland — and renting it out — could lead to practices that hurt the environment: Short-term farmers who rent land are less likely to take long-term conservation steps, the organization argues, and non-farmer owners don’t have the experience to “understand the importance of protecting natural resources.”

[Photo: Chris Mericle, Dust storm in Hamilton County, Florida, March, 2014, Suwannee Riverkeeper by NBC News, June, 2021]
Photo: Chris Mericle, Dust storm in Hamilton County, Florida, March, 2014, Suwannee Riverkeeper by NBC News, June, 2021

The Vox story includes the Leading Harvest greenwashing of Gates’ tinkering around the edges, but goes harder on this:

But whatever Gates might wish, many observers can’t quite separate the two things. For them, Bill Gates the environmentalist is also Bill Gates the commercial farmland owner, and they think the two roles are connected even if Gates doesn’t consider them to be.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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