Category Archives: VWW

Gainesville: North Central Florida Regional Planning Council 2024-05-23

Years ago, the dozen downstream Florida counties formed a task force about Valdosta sewage spills. See for example https://wwals.net/?p=51455

Due to recent events, it appears that task force will get reactivated this Thursday, at the monthly meeting of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC).

See for example https://wwals.net/?p=64677 and for background see https://wwals.net/issues/testing/

[NFRPC in Gainesville, Thursday, May 23, 2024, M&L Suwannnee & Withlacoochee River Task Force Reactivation]
NFRPC in Gainesville, Thursday, May 23, 2024, M&L Suwannnee & Withlacoochee River Task Force Reactivation

When: 7 PM, Thursday, May 23, 2024

Where: Drury Inn and Suites, Orange Blossom Room/Sweetwater Room, 4000 Southwest 40th Boulevard, Gainesville, Florida
Note the meeting will be in Gainesville, not the usual Lake City location.

Or online: https://meet.goto.com/408138813
DIAL IN NUMBER: Toll Free: 1.866.899.4679
ACCESS CODE: 408-138-813

Includes: VII. B. Middle and Lower Suwannee River and Withlacoochee River Task Force Reactivation

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/

Dirty Withlacoochee and Alapaha River and creeks 2024-05-15

After the big rains Monday and Tuesday, the Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers tested dirty this Wednesday, as did almost every creek location in Valdosta’s followup testing, including Sugar Creek at Gornto Road, just above Valdosta’s Sugar Creek WaterGoat trash trap, and the last test site before the Withlacoochee River.

If I were you, I’d avoid the Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers this weekend. Maybe try the Suwannee River upstream from the Alapaha River, or the Santa Fe River upstream from the Ichetucknee River. Also, rain is predicted.

WWALS has cancelled the Suwannee River paddle for tomorrow, due to predicted thunderstorms. It will be rescheduled later.

[Dirty Alapaha and Withlacoochee Rivers and creeks 2024-05-15;
Dirty Alapaha and Withlacoochee Rivers and creeks 2024-05-15;

The river tested too high in E. coli at all three of Valdosta’s test sites, North Valdosta Road (NVR), GA 133, and US 84, and way too high at Russ Tatum’s WWALS test site at Holly Point, below Allen Ramp in Florida. NVR (US 48) is upstream from all of Valdosta’s creek test sites for this week. There are a couple more creeks upstream from there that come out of Valdosta, but we also know something comes down Cat Creek after big rains. We have a grant application in to fund more testing up there.

[Chart: Dirty Rivers and Creeks 2024-05-15]
Chart: Dirty Rivers and Creeks 2024-05-15
For context, see: https://wwals.net/issues/testing

The numbers in the chart boxes indicate E. coli levels as colony-forming units per 100 mililiters (cfu/100 mL), according to Georgia Adopt-A-Stream bacterial monitoring protocols:
Zero (0) is what we want to see, and often we do, on the Alapaha and upstream on the Suwannee Rivers.
From 1-125 is within long-term average limits according to U.S. EPA and Georgia and Florida state agencies.
From 126-409 long-term is not good, and is likely to make some people sick.
From 410-999 is likely to make some people sick; try not to get that water on you.
From 1,000 and up: high alert; best not to get close to that water without gloves; wash clothes afterward.

The letters before the numbers indicate the source of the datapoint, as in W100 means 100 cfu/100 mL found by a WWALS tester.

W: WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), Suwannee Riverkeeper
V: Valdosta, GA
L: Lowndes County, GA
Q: Quitman, GA
SGRC: Southern Georgia Regional Commission
SRWMD: Suwannee River Water Management District
FDOH: Florida Department of Health
FDEP: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Rain: From USGS and UGA and other gauges.

No new sewage spills were reported in the Suwannee River Basin in the past week, in Georgia or Florida.

All the spills from last month rolled off that GA-EPD report Tuesday because that was 30 days after they started.

[Spills rolled off GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report 2024-05-14]
Spills rolled off GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report 2024-05-14

Valdosta, Lowndes County, and Quitman all told me they did not have any sewage spills in the recent rains. Of course, that doesn’t mean that sewage already in detention ponds or creek beds might not have washed downstream. Or Quitman’s settling ponds very close to Okapilco Creek may have washed over. Or cattle manure. Or some of the sources upstream on Cat Creek north of Valdosta that we’re trying to get a grant to explore further. The causes could be all of the above. Seems like it is really getting time to buy some more DNA test kits.

[Map: river levels --NOAA 2024-05-17]
Map: river levelswater.noaa.gov 2024-05-17

Some of the rivers are back down to good paddling levels. The Little River at Folsom Bridge (GA 122 west of Hahira) is in Action Stage, predicted to reach Minor Flood, which means it will continue rising downstream, too. The Withlacoochee River is in Minor Flood at Skipper Bridge and US 41, and at Action Stage at US 84 and Pinetta. The Ichetucknee River at US 27 and the Santa Fe River at Three Rivers Estates are still in Action Stage. The Suwannee River from Branford to Manatee Springs is in Action Stage. Even the Alapaha River at Statenville is predicted to rise to Action Stage.

[Map legend, water.noaa.gov]
Map legend, water.noaa.gov

Kimberly Godden Tanner tested the Alapaha River and was alarmed by the results, “Something is amiss with the Alapaha. This is very uncharacteristic. Everything looked and smelled fine.”

At Lakeland Boat Ramp at GA 122 east of Lakeland, GA, she got a result above the 410 one-time test limit:
5 + 5 + 13 = 23/3 = 7.66 x 100 = 766 cfu/100 mL.

At Naylor Park Beach just upstream from US 84, she got a result above the 1,000 alert limit:
12 + 10 + 12 = 34/3 = 11.33 x 100 = 1,133 cfu/100 mL.

Gretchen Quarterman tested Bland Pond on a branch of Spring Branch, which reaches the Withlacoochee River downstream from GA 133 and upstream from US 84. She noted, “The pond look much better than previous visits.”

Her result was below the 126 three-test average limit:
1 + 0 + 2 = 3 / 3 =1 *100 = 100 cfu/100 mL.

Russ Tatum tested at Holly Point, downstream from Allen Ramp on the Withlacoochee River. He said, “Nasty! The river has come up some but it has not crested upstream so expecting higher levels in a few days. The color is dark silty brown. These results are disappointing!”
17 + 20 + 18 = 55 / 3 = 18 * 100 = 1,800 cfu/100 mL

Joanne Tremblay tested the Ichetucknee River at TREPO Point Park (just above the Ichetucknee Confluence with the Santa Fe River). “The river has dropped considerably. The numbers are higher too.”
4 + 3 + 2 = 9/3=3*100=300 cfu/100 mL

WWALS Testing Trainer Gretchen Quarterman also delivered materials to testers.

If you want to get trained to be a WWALS water quality tester, please fill out the form:
https://wwals.net/?p=47084

Here’s a live Swim Guide Map.

Thanks to Joe Brownlee and Georgia Power for another generous grant for water quality testing equipment and materials.

You or your organization could also donate to the WWALS volunteer water quality testing program.

There are more images below.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/

LBR

[Downstream, Lakeland Boat Ramp, Alapaha River @ GA 122 2024-05-15]
Downstream, Lakeland Boat Ramp, Alapaha River @ GA 122 2024-05-15

NPB

[Naylor Park Beach, Alapaha River @ US 84 2024-05-15]
Naylor Park Beach, Alapaha River @ US 84 2024-05-15

BP

[Plates, Bland Pond, Spring Branch, Withlacoochee River 2024-05-15]
Plates, Bland Pond, Spring Branch, Withlacoochee River 2024-05-15

HP

[Holly Point, Withlacoochee River @ NE Withla Bluffs Way 2024-05-15]
Holly Point, Withlacoochee River @ NE Withla Bluffs Way 2024-05-15

PP

[Point Park, Ichetucknee River @ SW Riverside Ave. 2024-05-15]
Point Park, Ichetucknee River @ SW Riverside Ave. 2024-05-15

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/

No spills reported after recent rains, Suwannee River Basin 2024-05-15

Update 2024-05-17: Dirty Withlacoochee and Alapaha River and creeks 2024-05-15.

Update 2024-05-16: Quitman also reports no spills after the recent rains.

After two, three, and four inches of rain added up on Monday and Tuesday across south Georgia and parts of north Florida, the good news is no sewage spills have been reported in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia or Florida.

[No spills reported, after rains 2024-05-15, Suwannee River Basin, Georgia and Florida]
No spills reported, after rains 2024-05-15, Suwannee River Basin, Georgia and Florida

Sometimes it takes days for spills to show up in the GA-EPD and FDEP online reports, so I called Valdosta, Lowndes County, and Quitman.

Valdosta Utilities says they had no spills or overflows.

Lowndes County Utilities says they had no spills.

Quitman City Hall says as far as they have heard they have had no spills, but they referred me to their utilities contractor, ESG Engineering. I called the ESG number City Hall gave me, and left a message with the person who answered, but I have not heard back from ESG yet about sewage spills.

Update 2024-05-16: Scott Fowler of ESG called back. He says Quitman had no sewage spills with the recent rains.

This does not mean the rivers are clean. We do not know, because nobody has sampled yet since the rains. Valdosta now only samples once a week on Wednesdays, so they presumably drew their samples today and will post their results Thursday or Friday. WWALS samples on Wednesday or Thursday, and our results (and Valdosta’s) will go in the WWALS Friday water quality report, as usual.

Often after big rains, contamination washes into the rivers from other sources, including agriculture, livestock, wildlife, septic tanks, and domestic pets.

However, with this much rain, there is a good chance any such contamination has already been diluted and washed downstream. But we do not know.

If you want to get trained to be a WWALS water quality tester, please fill out the form:
https://wwals.net/?p=47084

Meanwhile, as you can see on the NOAA river levels map, the upstream Suwannee River has hardly risen, so that’s good for the WWALS outing this Saturday, Turner Bridge Ramp to Cone Bridge Ramp Suwannee River Paddle 2024-05-18. Depending, of course, on the rain predicted for Saturday. Continue reading

Clean rivers, but rain 2024-05-08

Update 2024-05-15: No spills reported after recent rains, Suwannee River Basin 2024-05-15.

The Withlacoochee and Santa Fe Rivers tested clean this Wednesday, as well as all but two Valdosta creeks. see below.

People going to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park see below.

There was rain and strong winds upstream Thursday. That rain could wash some contamination into the Withlacoochee River and others.

No new sewage spills were reported in the Suwannee River Basin in the past week, in Georgia or Florida.

Most of the rivers are back down to good paddling levels. The Withlacoochee River at Pinetta is predicted to rise to Action Stage. The Ichetucknee River at US 27 and the Santa Fe River at Three Rivers Estates are still in Action Stage. The Suwannee River from Rock Bluff to Manatee Springs is in Action Stage.

So for most stretches of most of the rivers, happy boating, swimming, and fishing this weekend.

Maybe you’d like to come with WWALS tomorrow, Mayday to Statenville, Alapaha River, 2024-05-11.

[Clean Rivers Wednesday 2024-05-08, Rained Thursday 2024-05-09]
Clean Rivers Wednesday 2024-05-08, Rained Thursday 2024-05-09

To repeat from a previous post: For people going to festivals at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park: Continue reading

Trash traps, detention ponds, and parking lots: Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River, Valdosta, GA 2024-05-07

For years WWALS has been promoting work by Russell Allen McBride and others to clean up Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River.

[Trash traps, detention ponds, and parking lots, Valdosta, GA, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River]
Trash traps, detention ponds, and parking lots, Valdosta, GA, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River

Russell’s net full of trash is the top graphic on the WWALS trash issue page:
https://wwals.net/issues/trash/ Continue reading

Clean rivers and some creeks, but rain 2024-05-02

Update 2024-05-10: Clean rivers, but rain 2024-05-08.

This week, the rivers that have been tested were clean: Withlacoochee and Santa Fe, as well as Franks Creek of the Little River and Cow Creek of the Santa Fe River. Three Valdosta creeks still tested bad Wednesday; see below.

People going to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park see below.

There was some rain Friday, but it was quite spotty: 2.73 inches at the Skipper Bridge Gauge on the Withlacoochee River above Valdosta, and 1.09 inches at the Irwinville Gauge on the Alapaha River. That rain could wash some contamination into the Withlacoochee River.

No new sewage spills were reported in the Suwannee River Basin in the past week, in Georgia or Florida, since the small inland High Springs spill of April 24, 2024.

Update 2024-05-08: Fixed the order of the rivers in the following paragraph.

Most of the rivers are back down to good paddling levels. The Santa Fe River at US 27 and the Ichetucknee River at Three Rivers Estates are still in Minor Flood. The Suwannee River from Branford to Manatee Springs is in Action Stage.

So for most stretches of most of the rivers, happy boating, swimming, and fishing this weekend. Continue reading

Valdosta test results: filthy Withlacoochee River after big spill, many creeks still filthy after smaller spills 2024-04-11

Update 2024-05-04: Clean rivers and some creeks, but rain 2024-05-02.

Valdosta knew the Withlacoochee River was filthy on that Friday and Saturday before it issued its press release on Monday, April 15, about its 6.7-million-gallon spill into Spring Branch to that river. We know this because Valdosta, unlike the other cities that spilled during the big rains of April 11, Valdosta puts its followup test results on the city’s website. Those results also show the river is clean, and has been since the Sunday after the spill. But some creeks are still filthy; see below.

[Valdosta test results: filthy Withlacoochee River after big spill, many creeks still filthy after smaller spills]
Valdosta test results: filthy Withlacoochee River after big spill, many creeks still filthy after smaller spills

For people going to festivals at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park: that location is upstream on the Suwannee River from the Withlacoochee River, and thus is not affected by any of the sewage spills that went into the Withlacoochee. I wouldn’t be surprised if the big rains washed some contamination into the Suwannee River. But that was three weeks ago, and most likely that E. coli was diluted and washed downstream long ago. The biggest thing you have to worry about in the Suwannee River at that park is probably contamination from people on the beach there. Continue reading

Clean Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Santa Fe Rivers 2024-04-25

Update 2024-05-04: Clean rivers and some creeks, but rain 2024-05-02.

Update 2024-05-03: Valdosta test results: filthy Withlacoochee River after big spill, many creeks still filthy after smaller spills 2024-04-11.

This week, the rivers that have been tested were clean: Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Santa Fe.

This is despite a Wednesday inland High Springs sewage spill of 1,500 gallons.

And clean even in the aftermath of all the spills of last week. There is more about sewage spills below, including that Valdosta did test the Friday and Saturday of the big spill, and the Withlacoochee River was filthy then.

But it’s clean now, and water levels are coming down in all the rivers. So if you don’t mind still a bit high and fast, happy boating, swimming, and fishing this weekend.

[Clean Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe Rivers 2024-04-25; Filthy Withlacoochee River & creeks 2024-04-12, 2024-04-13]
Clean Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe Rivers 2024-04-25; Filthy Withlacoochee River & creeks 2024-04-12, 2024-04-13

Testing at State Line by Madison Health and FDEP on Wednesday last week corroborated the WWALS result for the previous day. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) also tested downstream at CR 150 (Sullivan Launch) and at FL 6, and all three sites again Thursday, getting clean results each time. That corroborated the WWALS result for Holly Point downstream on that Thursday.

Madison Health has not yet withdrawn its health advisory for the Withlacoochee River, but I imagine it probably will the next time they or FDEP test.

And it turns out Valdosta is posting on its website the results of the testing it is required to do by the Georgia Environmental Pro Division (GA-EPD) after each major spill. None of Quitman, Tifton, Rochelle, Ashburn, or Homerville are posting their results, so that’s a good thing Valdosta is doing.

Those Valdosta results for this Wednesday and last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday also corroborate the WWALS results at US 84 and GA 133.

As noted last week, apparently the massive flow of the river from the rains diluted or washed the contamination downstream.

But Valdosta got very different results for Friday April 12, and Saturday April 13. Continue reading

High Springs, FL, 1,500-gallon sewage spill, NE Railroad Ave 2024-04-24

High Springs, Florida had a 1,500-gallon sewage spill from about midnight, Wednesday, April 24, until 7AM the same day. It was far from the Santa Fe River and probably had no effect on the river.

Incident Description: Bypass ball valve in discharge pipe vault union separated and pumped out from there. Residents in area mentioned smelling something around midnight the previous night but never reported it till maintenance showed up at 0700 and called us to report it. We were able to shut the pumps off and close a valve after the vault to isolate the station.”

Clean-up Actions: Applied lime, Signs posted”

[High Springs 1,500-gallon, Sewage Spill 2024-04-24, 23301 NW 186th Ave., aka NE Railroad Ave.]
High Springs 1,500-gallon, Sewage Spill 2024-04-24, 23301 NW 186th Ave., aka NE Railroad Ave.

The address given was 23301 NW 186th Ave, High Springs, FL 32643, with coordinates 29.82482649, -82.59387311.

Google Maps says that is on NE Railroad Ave. at Plantation Oaks Assisted Living and Memory Care, near US 27. Continue reading

Valdosta sewage on Madison County Commission agenda 2024-04-24

It’s the last item, under NEW BUSINESS:

  1. Discussion Regarding Valdosta Sewage Spill and Compliance with Consent Order — Commissioner Waldrep.

That’s at the Madison County Commission Regular Meeting, Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at 6:00 PM in the Courthouse Annex, 229 SW Pinckney St., Room 107, Madison, Florida.

[Valdosta sewage at Madison County Commission, Commissioner Donnie Waldrep 2024-04-24]
Valdosta sewage at Madison County Commission, Commissioner Donnie Waldrep 2024-04-24

According to Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson just now, “Wastewater, Engineering and City Manager meeting is 9:15 Tuesday morning to discuss increased capacity options.”

I asked if the public is invited. He answered, “No, I will report results to you….”

Valdosta is working hard on upgrading its dilapidated sewer system infrastructure, using local taxes and a Georgia state loan. They’ve spent more than $100 million dollars already.

Valdosta was pretty timely in telling the public about its nine other recent sewage spills.

But Continue reading