Tag Archives: Gretchen Quarterman

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/

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

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

Dirty creeks, but clean rivers 2024-04-17

Update 2024-04-26: Clean Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Santa Fe Rivers 2024-04-25.

After the week of sewage spills after the recent rains, WWALS found Sugar Creek dirty and Spring Branch filthy, but four rivers clean: Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Ichetucknee, and Santa Fe.

That’s right, while Spring Branch was filthy (7 times the alert limit for E. coli) right next to Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) that spilled 6.7 million gallons Friday through Sunday, the Withlacoochee River tested clean at five locations.

We can only guess that the massive flow of the river from the rains diluted or washed the contamination downstream.

You still might want to think twice before boating, fishing, or swimming in the rivers, since they are all in flood or at least Action Stage.

[After heavy thunderstorms and sewage spill week, dirty creeks, but clean rivers 2024-04-17]
After heavy thunderstorms and sewage spill week, dirty creeks, but clean rivers 2024-04-17

We have no new Valdosta results since last week, because Valdosta only tests once a week on Wednesday, and while they probably did sample yesterday, they have not posted their results.

Nevermind that Madison Health issued a health advisory for the Withlacoochee River because of Valdosta’s spills.

So that leaves WWALS and FDEP and SRWMD to test after Valdosta’s mess. Continue reading

WWALS @ A Day in the Woods, Gaskins Forest Education Center, Alapaha, GA 2024-04-20

Come see prescribed fire, basket making, longleaf pine trees, snakes, lizards, frogs, and eat food cooked on the spot.

When: Gather 12 PM, launch 1 PM, end 5 PM, Saturday, April 20, 2024

Put In: Gaskins Forest Education Center, 3359 Moore Sawmill Rd., Alapaha, Georgia 31622

GPS: 31.345454, -83.178356

[WWALS Booth at A Day in the Woods 2024-04-20, Gaskins Forest Education Center, Alapaha, Georgia]
WWALS Booth at A Day in the Woods 2024-04-20, Gaskins Forest Education Center, Alapaha, Georgia

Continue reading

Video: Raffle drawing for Eddyline Kayak 2024-04-03

Chuck Roberts drew the winning ticket yesterday for the Eddyline Sandpiper kayak, paddle, PFD, lock, and straps.

This one is slightly used. New, a 12-foot Eddyline kayak lists for $1,749.00.

Since there were only 30 $100 raffle tickets, each ticket had a 1 in 30 chance of winning.

[Drawing the winner, Eddyline Kayak Raffle, Troupville Boat Ramp, Little River 2024-04-03]
Drawing the winner, Eddyline Kayak Raffle, Troupville Boat Ramp, Little River 2024-04-03

Gretchen Quarterman fired up the zoom from her desk.

Here’s the zoom video: https://youtu.be/VXzBV0jhd2Y

At Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, Chuck Roberts first talked about the WWALS River Revue sit-down fundraising dinner, Saturday, September 7, 2024, at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta. Chuck is the M.C.
https://wwals.net/pictures/songwriting2024/

The Revue includes the seventh annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Song submissions are open now:
https://wwals.net/?p=64497

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman talked about upcoming outings.
https://wwals.net/outings

Including, coming up next Saturday, Continue reading

Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28

Update 2024-04-05: Apparently clean rivers after rain 2024-04-04.

We got bad results for Thursday for the Alapaha River. We have few other results, but we know there was much rain Wednesday and Thursday, and that usually washes contamination into the rivers.

If I were you, I would pick something else to do this weekend instead of boating, swimming, or fishing.

Also, Ashburn had yet another spill, although that was probably too far upstream to have much effect. It sure looks like there was some sort of overflow from the city of Alapaha wastewater treatment plant, even though none has yet shown up in the reports.

Instead, join us a week from Saturday for Withlacoochee River Earth Day Cleanup, Langdale Park Boat Ramp 2024-04-13.

Valdosta’s most recent upstream Withlacoochee River results are for Wednesday a week ago. Apparently they did not post their Wednesday results for this week because today is a holiday.

Similarly, most of the usual WWALS testers are off because of the holiday weekend.

[Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28]
Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28

There are no Valdosta Monday results, because, Continue reading

Clean rivers 2024-03-20

Update 2024-03-29: Rain and river contamination 2024-03-28.

We got good results for Wednesday for the Withlacoochee River and Alapaha Rivers. and for Thursday for the Alapaha River.

Valdosta’s recent upstream Withlacoochee River results for Wednesday are good, all two sites.

[Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-20]
Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-20

There are no Valdosta Monday results, because, as we learned last week from Acting Utilities Director Jason Barnes, “we are collecting once a week.”

As previously noted, Valdosta’s last downstream tests were September 1, 2023. Since for two weeks now Valdosta has reported “No Sample” for North Valdosta Road, we guess they’re not collecting there any more, either.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that it is now three years (minus one month) since the March, 2020, GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta that required downstream testing as a way to reduce the amount of the fine.

It rained today, and more is predicted for tomorrow. That may wash some contamination into the rivers. I’d recommend the Suwannee, Alapaha, or Santa Fe Rivers for this weekend.

For example, join Shirley Kokidko and others Sunday, Suwannee River Wilderness Paddle, Griffis Fish Camp to Fargo 2024-03-24.

The rivers are at pretty good paddling levels, and it’s not cold. So watch the weather, bring rain gear, and happy paddling, fishing, and maybe swimming this weekend. Continue reading

Clean rivers 2024-03-13

Update 2024-03-22: Ashburn and Rochelle sewage spills 2024-03-09.

We got good results for Wednesday for the Santa Fe and Withlacoochee Rivers and for Thursday for the Alapaha River.

Valdosta’s recent upstream Withlacoochee River results through Wednesday are good.

[Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-13]
Chart, Clean Rivers, Map 2024-03-13

There are no Valdosta Monday results, because, according to Acting Utilities Director Jason Barnes, “we are collecting once a week.”

He did not say why. Perhaps it is not coincidental that it is now three years (minus one month) since the March, 2020, GA-EPD Consent Order on Valdosta that required downstream testing as a way to reduce the amount of the fine.

As previously noted, Valdosta’s last downstream tests were September 1, 2023.

There’s a chance of rain today, and more chance Sunday.

The rivers are at pretty good paddling levels, and it’s not cold. So watch the weather, bring rain gear, and happy paddling, fishing, and maybe swimming this weekend.

[Chart: Clean Rivers 2024-03-13]
Chart: Clean Rivers 2024-03-13
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of water quality results, rainfall, and sewage spills, see:
https://wwals.net/issues/testing

No sewage spills were reported in the past week in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida or in the Georgia Sewage Spills Report.

However, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) tells us via email that Rochelle, GA, had another spill on March 9 through 13, 2024. We don’t know how much. We do know all of Rochelle is upstream from the Alapaha River.

GA-EPD did clarify why the earlier, February 12, 10,000 gallon spill took more than three weeks to appear in the Sewage Spills Report: “The spill was reported to us via email on Feb. 15th. It was entered into GAPDES on the 27th due to staffing vacancies and the Program manager being on vacation. However, it was entered into CTS on Feb. 16th . See attached link: https://cts.gaepd.org/Public/ComplaintDetails/107821

As to why the earlier Rochelle spill disappeared from the Sewage Spills Report, the answer was, “Only lasted from 09:45 until 16:00 on the 12th

I asked, “I don’t understand the answer about why it is not in later Sewage Spills Reports. Normally an item stays in there for 30 days until it rolls off. Spills for Tifton and Ashburn are still in there today, even though they occured in February. Why is this Rochelle spill different?”

Answer, “I do believe that spills to the ground don’t normally make it on the daily spill report. If it was originally updated to a spill to the ground, it may have fallen off for the report.”

That’s an exception I was not previously aware of.

I still wonder whether those very bad downstream Knights Creek results for Wednesday week after significant rain the day before indicated an unreported sewage spill upstream from the Alapahoochee and Alapaha Rivers?

In case you’re not aware, GA-EPD is woefully underfunded. Whenever I get a chance, I suggest to Georgia state legislators that EPD should be funded more.

WWALS tester Kimberly Godden Tanner said everything Continue reading

Clean rivers and creek 2024-03-07

Update 2024-03-15: Clean rivers 2024-03-13.

We got good results for Wednesday for the Santa Fe and Withlacoochee Rivers and Franks Creek, and for Thursday for the Alapaha River.

Valdosta’s recent upstream Withlacoochee River results through Monday are good. However, Valdosta got very bad downstream Knights Creek results for Wednesday after significant rain Tuesday. Is this an unreported sewage spill upstream from the Alapahoochee and Alapaha Rivers? And why can Valdosta get its Knights Creek followup testing results for Wednesday on its own website by Saturday, but not its Withlacoochee River test results?

Rain is predicted for Saturday, and maybe thunderstorms.

The rivers are down to good paddling levels, and it’s not cold. So watch the weather, bring rain gear, and happy paddling, fishing, and maybe swimming this weekend.

Or join us tomorrow and Sunday at Drexel Park in Valdosta for the Azalea Festival, on One Mile Branch, upstream from Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River.

[Chart, Rivers and creek, Map 2024-03-06]
Chart, Rivers and creek, Map 2024-03-06

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

However, on Wednesday, March 6, GA-EPD reported that Rochelle spilled 10,000 gallons of raw sewage on Monday, February 12, due to “Wet weather” from “Sook Road manhole.”

[Rochelle 10,000 gallon sewage spill 2024-02-12]
Rochelle 10,000 gallon sewage spill 2024-02-12

The waterway is given as “none” and the river basin is blank in the report. Actually, Sook Road is on a ditch that runs into Reynolds Creek into Mill Creek into the Alapaha River. It’s mysterious why this spill took more than four weeks to show up, and why the report has so little information. Even more mysterious is that it does not appear in later Sewage Spills Reports. I have asked GA-EPD about this. Continue reading