Tag Archives: Fecal Coliform

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:

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!


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


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


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


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


[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!

ANNUAL REPORT, Lowndes County Impaired Streams Monitoring 2022-04-07

This third annual report on Lowndes County Impaired Streams Monitoring, as required by GA-EPD, maybe the last. Unfortunately, this monitoring has not discovered any sources of impairment.

[Collage, 2022 Annual Report: Lowndes County Impaired Streams Monitoring]
Collage, 2022 Annual Report: Lowndes County Impaired Streams Monitoring

Their conclusion for Fecal Coliform, E. coli, and Mercury is, “Lowndes County has not identified any point sources within the drainage areas that can be attributed to the widespread exceedances. Based on the limited data collected to date, it is the opinion of Lowndes County that the cause of the exceedances is from natural conditions.”

They do have speculations on Dissolved Oxygen (DO) in Cat Creek, Continue reading

Very bad water quality at US 41 and GA 133 Monday 2023-07-31

Update 2023-08-09: Bad water quality upstream Withlacoochee River 2023-08-07.

Update 2023-08-07: 2023-08-07: Valdosta City Council approved match for a GA-EPD seed grant that WWALS told them about 2023-07-27.

Update 2023-08-02: Reschedule Retry Sugar Creek to Troupville Chainsaw Cleanup, Withlacoochee River 2023-08-19.

Valdosta’s Withlacoochee River water quality results for Monday, July 31, 2023 were very bad at US 41 (North Valdosta Road) and GA 133. Bad was 12,000 cfu/100 mL of E. coli at US 41, which is twelve times the alert limit of 1,000.

There was intermittent rain over the weekend upstream from Valdosta, which probably washed contamination into the river.

Judging by the previous WWALS creek tests, most likely that contamination came down Cat Creek. More testing is needed to find out what it is.

[Problem spots and context 2023-07-31]
Problem spots and context 2023-07-31

Those locations are north and west of Valdosta. Continue reading

Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06

Update 2023-07-29: Clean Withlacoochee River, filthy Crawford and Sugar Creeks 2023-07-28.

That word “immediately,” I don’t think it means wait yet another day before informing the public, after Valdosta Utilities already waited four days to tell GA-EPD about the sewage spill.

Even though Valdosta wrote to GA-EPD, “we did not observe any direct flow to the creek,” Valdosta’s own state-required followup testing showed too-high Fecal coliform and E. coli in Knights Creek a week later, downstream, but not upstream, of the spill. Just because they didn’t see the sewage running over the ground doesn’t mean it’s not seeping through the vegetation or the ground itself.

Maybe you’re as tired as I am of Valdosta blaming sewage spills on contractors. Who hires the contractors? Who supervises them? Why doesn’t Valdosta’s fancy SCADA system alert the city to these spills early, where, when, and how much?

The information seemed pretty skimpy that Valdosta Utilities supplied to the public about its July 6, 2023, sewage spill into Knights Creek. Also, I wanted to know when did Valdosta tell GA-EPD, since that spill did not show up in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report for a long time, Not until after I asked GA-EPD about it, actually, even though Valdosta City Manager Richard Hardy had said he would look into that.

So I filed an open records request with the City of Valdosta for all communications between Valdosta and GA-EPD about Valdosta’s last three sewage spills. I only got back information about the Knights Creek spill, so here is that much.

[Where, When, After: Valdosta's Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06]
Where, When, After: Valdosta’s Knights Creek Sewage Spill 2023-07-06

Let me say that recent communications from Valdosta Utilities have been much improved in recent days, coming from Assistant Director Jason Barnes. Barnes took it upon himself to warn WWALS about contamination in Sugar Creek before the cleanup paddle we had scheduled for last Saturday, so we converted it into an on-land cleanup. That elevated Fecal coliform and E. coli came from Valdosta’s July 17, 2023, spill into Hightower Creek near River Street, upstream from Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River. Reporting for that July 17th spill was much better: a press release went out the next day, and it also appeared in GA-EPD’s Sewage Spills Report the day after the spill. And Jason Barnes showed up in person to see about getting a warning sign placed at Sugar Creek.

Back to the July 6, 2023, spill into Knights Creek, above Mud Swamp Creek, the Alapahoochee River, and the Alapaha River.

Utilities Director Bradley L. Eyre did not write to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) until July 10th, four days after the spill was discovered on July 6th. Continue reading

Pictures: Sugar Creek Withlacoochee River on-land cleanup 2023-07-22

Thanks to Russell Allen McBride for leading the rerouted on-land Sugar Creek and mostly Withlacoochee River cleanup. Children and experienced adults teamed up to get the job done. We found only one big trash jam and we cleaned that one up.

Phil Hubbard came with boat and chainsaws ready to do a chainsaw cleanup, but due to the reroute there was no chainsawing.

We thanked Valdosta Assistant Utilities Director Jason Barnes for alerting us to the sewage spill contamination in Sugar Creek that caused us to reroute from a cleanup paddle to an on-land cleanup. He arrived before we left, so we thanked him again in person.

[Before, WaterGoat, Trashjam, Level log, after, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River 2023-07-22]
Before, WaterGoat, Trashjam, Level log, after, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River 2023-07-22

Yes, Vivian, there could be alligators. Continue reading

Knights Creek tested too high for E. coli before Valdosta reported the latest spill 2023-07-10

Update 2023-07-26: Valdosta notified GA-EPD four days after the latest Knights Creek sewage spill 2023-07-06.

Update 2023-07-18: Another Valdosta River Street Spill into Hightower Creek 2023-07-17.

Valdosta’s own water quality tests of Knights Creek showed way too high E. coli for the day before Valdosta’s press release about its most recent sewage spill into Knights Creek.

[Map and Report]
Map and Report

I don’t know whether these tests were done by Valdosta’s downstream testing contractors or by their in-house people. If the latter, it seems likely that Valdosta knew of these Monday results before the city issued a press release the next day at 6:24 PM Tuesday, July 11, 2023. Yet there is no mention of them in the press release.

Valdosta got even higher results for March 29th, with a note: “Possible cause of high results on 3/29 was substantial rainfall in area.”

But Valdosta also got too-high results for March 30th (above the one-time test limit of 410), on June 13th (above the alert limit of 1,000), and on June 21st (above the one-time test limit). I’m not finding records of rain on Valdosta at all these dates. Plus if that was the cause, why are the too-high results all only for the BELOW location and not the ABOVE location? Has Valdosta had more sewage spills than they have reported?

Speaking of reported, neither this spill nor Valdosta’s previous spill have shown up in the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report. I have asked GA-EPD about that.

These Knights Creek test results are according to data on the city of Valdosta Utilties Department web pages, 2023 Knight’s Creek Biological Monitoring Results. Continue reading

Valdosta annual stormwater reports to GA-EPD 2023-02-14

Back in December, Valdosta got a five-year renewal of its stormwater permit by GA-EPD. I noticed that the renewal process requires updating the city’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) by June 4, 2023. And the permit requires annual reports.

Here are the last five years of Valdosta annual stormwater permit reports, in 1051 files.


They must be valuable: Valdosta charged WWALS $106.53 to satisfy the open records request.

[Two Mile Branch water quality, Pond inspection list, Pond enforcement]
Two Mile Branch water quality, Pond inspection list, Pond enforcement

They are rather dry reading, and I do not claim to have read them all. But there are some interesting bits.

It turns out Valdosta has some Fecal coliform results for Two Mile Branch, Continue reading

Good water quality 2022-10-13

Update 2022-10-21: Clean water quality, Withlacoochee, Little, Alapaha, Rivers 2022-10-20.

Update 2022-10-18: Forever chemicals contaminate Withlacoochee River in Georgia and Florida 2022-10-18.

Looks good for fishing, swimming, and boating this weekend.

WWALS downstream water quality results for Thursday on the Withlacoochee were good. WWALS upstream tests were OK. Monday Valdosta upstream results were OK. No new sewage spills have been reported in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia or Florida.

[Chart, Rivers, Swim Guide]
Chart, Rivers, Swim Guide

Valdosta detected something for Wednesday and Friday last week at US 41 and GA 133, when there was no rain. That could have been more contamination coming from Cat Creek and Beatty Branch. Whatever the source, why with no rain?

If we get more rain, WWALS will test upstream and see what we can catch. Continue reading

Bad GA 133 and US 84, Withlacoochee River 2022-09-12

Update 2022-09-16: Clean Rivers 2022-09-15.

Bad news in Valdosta’s upstream Withlacoochee River water quality results.

Too high E. coli at both GA 133 (St. Augustine Road) and US 84.

Best to avoid the Withlacoochee River for now in those stretches.

[Chart, Swim Guide]
Chart, Swim Guide

We also see high Fecal coliform for Monday at US 41 (North Valdosta Road), but OK E. coli. That is usual for after a big upstream rain, and you can see 0.61 inches on the Skipper Bridge gauge for the previous day.

But at GA 133 and US 84, Continue reading

Good upstream and downstream, Withlacoochee, Little, Alapaha Rivers 2021-07-29

Update 2021-08-06: Clean up and down: Withlacoochee, Little, Alapaha Rivers 2021-08-05.

All the E. coli test results we have for the Little, Alapaha, and Withlacoochee Rivers are good, all the way down below Allen Ramp almost to the Suwannee River. We don’t test for Fecal coliform, so we don’t know what happened with that sky-high Fecal coliform result Madison Health got for Tuesday. However, from the WWALS test results we have for Wednesday and Thursday, all these rivers seem clean, with two sites tested on each of the Little and Alapaha Rivers, and six on the Withlacoochee.

[Chart, Franks Creek, Alapaha River, Little River, Withlacoochee River, Swim Guide]
Chart, Franks Creek, Alapaha River, Little River, Withlacoochee River, Swim Guide

We have no new results from Valdosta or Madison Health since yesterday’s post. Apparently Valdosta does have some new results, but they’re having some sort of website problem. Madison Health seems to only test Tuesdays, and only at the state line anymore. That’s too bad, because they both test Fecal coliform, and we do not.

This is yet another example of how the state of Florida needs to step up, fund, and implement regular testing of all the rivers from the state line to the Gulf. Then we might know how far which contamination blob got. We’d also have a better chance tracking it back to its source. Floridians, please ask your statehouse delegation to make it so. Continue reading