Category Archives: Agriculture

Florida Gov. DeSantis Urged to Declare State of Emergency Due to Red Tide 2021-07-19

“The Suwannee River Basin has been lucky in avoiding red tide so far, but we don’t want it anywhere,” said John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper. “Beyond this emergency, let’s stop the excess fertilizers and phosphate mine waste that are causing this problem.”

Several other Florida Waterkeepers signed the letter, as did Waterkeepers Florida, representing all the Waterkeepers of Florida.

[Red tide warning, beach closure sign in St. Petersburg, Fla.: Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity.]
Red tide warning, beach closure sign in St. Petersburg, Fla.: Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity.

“Tampa Bay hasn’t been this sick since the 1970s when Clean Water Act regulations brought about the bay’s recovery,” said Justin Bloom, Suncoast Waterkeeper board member. “It is with a groundswell of public support that we call on our governor for leadership to protect and restore our bays and waterways.”

“Our right to clean water has been jeopardized and now is the time for action to protect Tampa Bay,” said Megan Eakins, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper board chair. “Our area needs the full support of our governor to take the actions necessary to mitigate this disaster and ensure this does not happen again.”

“Failure to remove dead and decaying marine life will exacerbate the intensity and duration of the red tide event,” said Andre Mele, executive director of Peace+Myakka Waterkeeper. “Dead marine life releases nutrients into the water column, which feeds the red tide organism and adds to the bloom, in a classic positive feedback loop.”

Plus the international Waterkeeper Alliance.

“Nearly 50 years ago, amid the era of burning rivers and rampant environmental degradation, the Clean Water Act was enacted, and yet almost five decades later, too many decision-makers continue to ignore the lessons history has taught us,” said Patience Burke, Waterkeeper Alliance organizer for the Gulf and South Atlantic regions. “We are bearing witness to an ecological catastrophe and will face judgment over the next 50 years about how we do, or do, not respond.”

Gov. DeSantis Urged to Declare State of Emergency Due to Red Tide

Hundreds of Tons of Dead Marine Animals Have Been Collected From Tampa Bay, Including Six Manatees

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— More than two dozen local businesses and conservation groups today asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency due to the ongoing red tide and fish kills in and around Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg city council and mayor also have requested that the governor declare a state of emergency to help coordinate and fund desperately needed cleanup efforts and mitigate the worsening red tide.

The red tide appeared in Tampa Bay shortly after Florida regulators, in March, authorized the discharge of up to 480 million gallons of wastewater from the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack into Tampa Bay.

The Piney Point gypstack is a mountain of toxic waste topped by an impoundment of hundreds of millions of gallons of process wastewater, stormwater and tons of dredged spoil from Port Manatee. So-called “nutrient pollution” like ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorous from that discharge can significantly worsen red tides.

The hundreds of tons of dead marine life discovered in recent weeks has included manatees and goliath groupers, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, as well as puffer fish, eel, horseshoe crabs, sheepshead, mullet, snook, red drum, tarpon, sharks, grouper, catfish and numerous other species of fish.

“Red tide’s carnage is horrific and infuriating,” said Continue reading

FDEP BMAPs update webinar 2021-07-14

I plan to attend, and I suggest others do, as well.

Here’s a monitoring gap: if Valdosta, Georgia, can test water quality three times a week on forty river miles to the GA-FL line, the great state of Florida can do the rest all the way to the Gulf.

And here’s a modeling gap: where’s the comparison of simply limiting water withdrawal permits compared to that SRWMD proposed double pipeline from the Suwannee River to Ichetucknee Headspring?

[Invitation]
Invitation

The cover letter says you can avoid Microsoft Teams by calling in:

Or call in (audio only): 1-469-305-1028

Phone Conference ID: 882 637 651#

Here’s the agenda.

Outstanding Florida Springs
Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) Update
Via Webinar
July 14, 2021
1:00 p.m.
Microsoft Teams link: Click here to join the meeting

  • Welcome / Introductions
  • Updates / Next Steps
  • Onsite Sewage Program Updates
  • Senate Bill 712 / Clean Waterways Act Updates
  • Monitoring Gaps
  • Funding Updates
  • DEP Activities and Updates

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

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

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®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Bill Gates did nothing to stop fertilizer nitrates leaching into springs and rivers –Suwannee Riverkeeper via NBC News 2021-06-08

The story doesn’t say BMAP, but it does get at the heart of the problem the Basin Management Action Plans don’t actually solve, and Bill Gates did not, either.

April Glaser, NBC News, 8 June 2021, updated 9 June 2021, McDonald’s french fries, carrots, onions: all of the foods that come from Bill Gates farmland: Gates does not appear to count his farming investments as the nation’s largest farmland owner as part of his broader strategy to save the climate.

The reporter had never heard of Riverkeepers before, and now here’s one on NBC News.

Algae bloom

But some farmers whose land is adjacent to that of the Gateses have expressed disappointment that despite the couple’s wealth, they have not done more to preserve the environment. Quarterman also serves as the Suwannee Riverkeeper and advocates for conservation of the intricate network of springs and rivers in the region, where water from the swamps of Georgia flow into Florida before they release into the Gulf of Mexico. He said that this is where large tracts of rich farmland is used to raise livestock and grow many of the vegetables that end up in grocery aisles up and down the East Coast.

[John Quarterman stands by the Withlacoochee River in Georgia. Matt Odom / for NBC News]
John Quarterman stands by the Withlacoochee River in Georgia. Matt Odom / for NBC News

All that farming has led to large water withdrawals from Florida’s aquifer system and requires fertilizer, which leaches through the ground into waterways, emptying nitrogen that has led to destructive algae blooms and severe loss of fish and marsh habitats.

In the video segment, she also mentions manatees.

He hoped Gates would have Continue reading

Good upstream, bad down, Withlacoochee River 2021-05-13

Update 2021-05-22: All clear, Withlacoochee River 2021-05-20.

There’s good water quality news upstream for tomorrow’s Withlacoochee River paddle from Langdale Park Boat Ramp to Sugar Creek and the Salty Snapper.
https://wwals.net/?p=55532

Yesterday (Thursday) Bobby McKenzie sampled Langdale Park Boat Ramp and GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River, and Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River. His results today for all three were well within the single-sample limit for E. coli.

Eyeballing the Withlacoochee at GA 133, he decided the level was too low for that stretch of the paddle. However, Bobby paddled from Langdale Park Boat Ramp to Sugar Creek and up it, and except for a couple of portages as you get to Sugar Creek, there’s plenty of water. Bring mud boots and you can stand up in the river there and drag your boat across. And 10% off lunch for each paddler at the Salty Snapper!

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

Also for Thursday, there’s bad news from Knights Ferry Boat Ramp downstream to the state line, and by now that contamination has probably washed farther down the river. WWALS testers Michael and Jacob Bachrach got horrendous results at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, and above the single-sample limit at State Line Boat Ramp. Nankin Boat Ramp was barely within that limit. If I were you, I would stay off the Withlacoochee River below US 84 for a few days. Continue reading

Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09

Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s positive answer to Suwannee Riverkeeper’s question about the Okefenokee Swamp was covered by the local newspaper of record.

[VDT, Ossoff, Warnock]
VDT, Ossoff, Warnock

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 6 May 2021, Ossoff: Millions for S.Ga. schools,

During Ossoff’s visit, Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman asked about the proposed heavy mineral sands mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge is the largest east of the Mississippi and carries a hefty amount of wildlife biodiversity. The mine could potentially impact the refuge’s native species, basin hydrology and overall integrity.

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

Valdosta meeting, Suwannee-Satilla Regional Water Planning Council 2021-04-15

Meeting in the most populous city in its region, on tax day 2021, the Suwannee-Satilla Regional Water Planning Council. Worth attending. 9:45 AM, Thursday, April 15, 2021, Valdosta City Hall Annex, Suite # 206, 300 N Lee St. Valdosta, GA 31601.

[Notice, Region and Assessment]
Notice, Region and Assessment

Georgia’s water councils are nothing like Florida’s Water Management Districts. The Georgia councils have no ability to tax or fine, and no staff. Their appointed and unpaid members just plan, with assistance from GA-EPD staff and some consultants. Continue reading