Category Archives: VWW

Bad Upstream, Good Downstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-22

Unusual results: too high E. coli at US 41 and GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River, good downstream and on the Little and Alapaha Rivers. Unexpected because with the heavy rain in Brooks County, Georgia, problems downstream might have been expected. I would paddle on the Withlacoochee River this weekend.

[Chart, Up and Down Withlacoochee River, Map]
Chart, Up and Down Withlacoochee River, Map

We have no results from Valdosta newer than Monday upstream, and the previous week downstream. Also nothing from Madison Health since Tuesday a week ago.

But WWALS testers Valerie Folsom, Bobby McKenzie, and Gus Cleary filled the gap. Continue reading

Valdosta Elsa spills finally in GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report 2021-07-20

Update 2021-07-23: Bad Upstream, Good Downstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-22.

Not just two, but seven Valdosta July 7th sewage spills finally showed up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report yesterday.

That’s ten working days later, or almost two calendar weeks after they happened during Tropical Storm Elsa. Even Quitman is usually only one week late filing such reports.

However, unlike the vague “800 block” verbiage in Valdosta’s press release of July 8th, these reports have precise street addresses.

And these reports say which waterbody was affected. The “800 Block of E Brookwood Dr.”, from which I could not tell whether it went west into Onemile Branch, Sugar Creek, and the Withlacoochee River, turns out to be “836 E. Brookwood Dr”, and it went into “Knights Creek”, which runs into Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.

So I’ll go back and revise our WWALS map. Maybe from now on Valdosta will report spills with this kind of precision and save everybody trouble.

[Seven Valdosta Spills, GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report parsed by WWALS]
Seven Valdosta Spills, GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report parsed by WWALS, see the WWALS website.

Also maybe Valdosta will finally do something to Continue reading

Bad Elsa aftermath, water quality, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-16 Clean Withlacoochee River 2021-07-15.

Update: 2021-07-12: No Valdosta City repair work at chronic sewage spill manhole, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch 2021-07-08.

Tropical Storm Elsa washed E. coli into the Withlacoochee River, according to WWALS test results for Thursday, July 8, 2021.

Some of it probably came from Valdosta’s more than half a dozen sewage spills. But that wasn’t the only source, since WWALS found bad water quality starting at Hagan Bridge @ GA 122 and US 41, well upstream from Sugar Creek. Hagan Bridge is even upstream of Cat Creek, through which Moody Air Force Base’s Beatty Branch spill would reach the Withlacoochee. So some of this is probably more of the usual cattle, hog, horse, etc. manure being washed into the river. However, WWALS found much worse water quality at GA 133, downstream of Sugar Creek. So possibly Valdosta’s 45,532 gallons of raw sewage into Twomile Branch and 44,448 gallons into Onemile Branch, which both flush through Sugar Creek, had some ill effect on the Withlacoochee River.

For Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps, Valdosta’s own results for Wednesday already showed too much E. coli, and the WWALS results for Thursday at Nankin and State Line were no better. WWALS did get acceptable results at Cleary Bluff, downstream of Allen Ramp, but that may be just because the contamination had not washed down there yet.

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

For the Little River, WWALS got too-high E. coli at Troupville Boat Ramp, but acceptable upstream at Folsom Bridge Landing @ GA 122.

For the Alapaha River, results were good at Willacoochee Landing @ GA 135 Wednesday, and acceptable at Lakeland Boat Ramp @ GA 122 Thursday. We have no data downstream of where the 320 gallons of Valdosta sewage on MLK Drive might have flushed down Duke Bay Canal, Mud Swamp Creek, and the Alapahoochee River into the Alapaha River just upstream of Sasser Landing, but that was a very small amount.

So if you want to boat this weekend, I’d recommend the Alapaha River or upstream on the Little River, but not the Withlacoochee River.

We have no Santa Fe River water quality data downstream of Starke, Florida’s, half dozen sewage spills. Continue reading

Detail of Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA * 8, Starke, FL * 6, 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-09: Bad Elsa aftermath, water quality, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-08.

The Valdosta spills actually add up to 90,300 gallons of raw sewage from seven locations, mostly in the Withlacoochee River Basin, but one into the Alapaha River Basin. Or more spills, since we have a report of one more that the city limed but did not include in its list of spills.

The Starke spills apparently came from six locations, probably adding up to 45,000 gallons of raw sewage, all uphill from Alligator Creek 00277787, above Lake Rowell, Lake Sampson, Sampson River, Santa Fe River.

[Valdosta spills, Starke spills and mines]
Valdosta spills, Starke spills and mines during Tropical Storm Elsa 2021-07-07

Still, the good news is that there were no spills from Valdosta’s two wastewater treatment plants, and the new WWTP catch basin is only half full (so far). Plus, the Mayor of Valdosta called to let us know about these spills. And he says the notorious Wainwright Drive manhole on Onemile Branch is finally getting some attention. Oh, and for once there was no spills reported on Mildred Street.

See also the previous WWALS blog post.

Valdosta Spills

Here is the Valdosta Press Release about their spills. I have added which [waterbody] the spill was on or uphill from. GA-EPD still has not posted Valdosta’s spill reports in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

The WWALS maps show where the spills were, as near as I could read the tea leaves of Valdosta’s vague “200 block” location reporting. They know the exact latitude and longitude of the affected manholes. Why don’t they include that?

Note that Valdosta’s list does not include a spill that Valdosta limed, between Continue reading

Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA, Starke, FL 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-09: Detail of Sewage Spills: Valdosta, GA * 8, Starke, FL * 6, 2021-07-08

Two cities spilled sewage during Tropical Storm Elsa: Starke, Florida, and Valdosta, Georgia.

The good news: there were no spills from Valdosta’s two wastewater treatment plants, and the new WWTP catch basin is only half full (so far). Plus, the Mayor of Valdosta called to let us know about these spills.

The bad news: Valdosta spilled 89,980 gallons of raw sewage from at least six manholes, and Starke spilled probably 40,000 gallons or more from at least six locations. At least one of the Valdosta spills was from a repeated spill offender we have complained about many times: Wainwright Drive on Onemile Branch.

[Closed manhole at 1208 Wainwright Drive]
Closed manhole at 1208 Wainwright Drive

The other Valdosta spills apparently went into either Twomile Branch or Sugar Creek upstream from the Withlacoochee River, and two possibly into creeks in the Alapaha River Basin. Can’t tell without more precise locations.

A press release is expected soon from Valdosta. I will probably follow up with that and which waterways were affected. Maybe GA-EPD will post Valdosta’s spill reports in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

The Starke spills were all into or near Alligator Creek 00277787, into Lake Rowell, Lake Sampson, Sampson River, Santa Fe River.

Valdosta Spills

Thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for forwarding this message from Valdosta City Manager Mark Barber: Continue reading

Bad Upstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-02

Update 2021-07-06: Tropical Storm Elsa headed up Suwannee River Basin 2021-07-06

Valdosta has published its upstream results for Friday, which showed very bad water quality at US 41, GA 133, and US 84 on the Withlacoochee River.

[Chart, Map]
Chart, Map

There’s been even more rain since then, and more is coming straight at the Suwannee River Basin with Tropical Storm Elsa. Continue reading

Clean Rivers after Tuesday blip and before Thursday rains 2021-07-01

Update 2021-07-06: Bad Upstream, Withlacoochee River 2021-07-02.

The Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers are remarkably clean by samples Thursday, July 1, 2021. No sewage spills have been reported for Georgia.

Some bad news: something caused high E. coli in the Withlacoochee River at GA 133 on Tuesday. And Starke, Florida, had two more small spills above the Santa Fe River, but nothing like the big one that Florida city had a week ago.

The good news: according to those Tuesday tests, whatever was in the Withlacoochee River at GA 133 was not coming from Valdosta’s Mulch Yard off of Val-Tech Road. And by Thursday samples, whatever it was was gone by then.

So by the results we have right now, it’s clear for swimming, diving, fishing, and boating.

And still more good news: Madison Health has lifted its former Bacterial Advisory for the Withlacoochee River.

But beware: many inches of rain fell later Thursday and today. That usually washes more contamination into the rivers. See Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27 https://wwals.net/?p=55966

[Chart, rivers, results, Swim Guide]
Chart, rivers, results, Swim Guide

Just don’t say we didn’t mention those rains yesterday and today, which in Brooks County started even earlier, and have been very heavy. If we’re all lucky, most of what manure would wash off has already washed off. We shall see.

With a dozen tests this week, we’re burning through testing materials. Thanks to Joe Brownlee, Southwest Director, Georgia Power, for another generous water quality testing grant that helps make this possible. Continue reading

Upgrade Suwannee River Basin rivers to Recreational –WWALS to GA-EPD 2021-06-30

There are a couple of new things in what I sent on the deadline day, yesterday. (PDF)

  1. Funds are now available to buy the private land at the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River, which was the main impediment to plans for the Troupville River Camp and Troupville River Park.
  2. Stakeholders in the One Valdosta-Lowndes initiative met and decided their number one community and economic development priority is: Troupville River Camp.

For what this is all about, see Calling for pictures of swimming, diving, rapids, tubing, water skiing, or surfing, Suwannee River Basin, Georgia.

[Rivers, Letter]
Rivers, Letter


June 30, 2021

To: EPD.Comments@dnr.ga.gov
Elizabeth Booth, Environmental Protection Division
Watershed Protection Branch,
Watershed Planning & Monitoring Program,
Suite 1152 East, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr., Atlanta, GA 30334

Re: Georgia Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards

Dear Ms. Booth,

Once again I would like to commend you and all the GA-EPD staff for your diligence in this Triennial Review process. I thank you for your consideration of the request by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) to upgrade GA EPD’s designated use of the Little, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Suwannee Rivers, as well as Grand Bay WMA, Banks Lake NWR, and the Okefenokee NWR, from Fishing to Recreational, to set higher water quality standards for these bodies of water.

In the interests of saving you and me time, I will try to merely summarize the arguments I have already made, while adding some material you may not have previously seen.

Year-Round

As you know WWALS would prefer that redesignation applied uniformly, year-round. As you mentioned in the recent EPD zoom meeting on this subject, perhaps one reason Florida has all its rivers as Recreational by default is its climate. South Georgia, like north Florida (and unlike north Georgia) has a subtropical climate in which we are not surprised by 80-degree weather in January. People swim, dive, fish, and boat on our rivers year-round. Some people even prefer to be on and in the water in the winter because there are fewer insects. I have recently been reminded that local churches also use them for immersion baptisms, which can happen in any season of the year.

Recreational Data Spreadsheet

Per request of EPD, please find attached a Recreational Data Spreadsheet, which is also online here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1g9gLcNnbRx4H9djZAlKd1ZaB7zrlmDbz/view?usp=sharing

In that spreadsheet are examples of swimming and diving locations, including almost every boat ramp or landing, plus selected sandbars, beaches, and springs. Also included are a few examples of rapids. None of them are Class III, but at least two are Class II+, and as Gwyneth Moody pointed out on the recent zoom, people frequently capsize in those.

Included for every location in that spreadsheet is a link to further information, mostly to one of our three river trails (“blue trails”):

Continue reading

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

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