Tag Archives: manure

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

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

Health Advisory, Withlacoochee River, bad at GA-FL line after rains 2021-06-22

Update 2021-06-25 Filthy at Knights Ferry, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-24.

Unfortunately as expected, the recent rains have washed Fecal coliform and E. coli into the Withlacoochee River. The Madison County, Florida, Health Department has issued an advisory of possible bacterial contamination. I wouldn’t want to get that river water on me until better results are seen. It’s most likely both upstream and downstream of the one datapoint Madison Health collected, which is for the GA-FL line. Better wait a few days before swimming, fishing, or boating on the Withlacoochee River.

[Bacterial Advisory, TNTC and 800 cfu/100 mL, Red State Line on Swim Guide]
Bacterial Advisory, TNTC and 800 cfu/100 mL, Red State Line on Swim Guide

The contamination most likely comes from the usual source: cattle manure, mostly washing off of open pastures in Brooks County, Georgia, down Okapilco Creek.

But we do not really know, because the only data we have for this week is the one report by Madison Health for yesterday, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. We only know that much because Madison County Chairman Donnie Waldrep Sr. posted it on his facebook page. It does not yet appear on the public web page of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The most recent data we have for Valdosta is from last week, before the rains, and only for US 41, GA 133, and US 84, all upstream of where Okapilco Creek enters the Withlacoochee River. The last downstream data Valdosta has published is for two weeks ago, Monday, June 7, 2021.

I hear Valdosta wants people downstream in Florida to understand that recent contamination is not coming from Valdosta. Well, timely publishing that downstream data would help with that.

Not publishing that data until weeks later could give the impression that Valdosta does not care about people downstream. Continue reading

Clean Rivers 2021-06-03

Update 2021-06-11: Clean Rivers Again 2021-06-10.

Thanks to WWALS testers Elizabeth Brunner (3 sites), Bobby McKenzie (6 sites), and Gus Cleary (1 site), we know the Withlacoochee River clean Thursday at last in spots from GA 122 almost to the Suwannee River, the Little River down to its Confluence, and the Alapaha River at Lakeland. No rain, no manure runoff! And there were no reported sewage spills this week.

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

So happy boating, swimming, and fishing!

Valdosta was once again asleep at the wheel. The most recent results we have from them are for last Friday upstream and the Friday before that downstream. Madison Health did not test this week. So it’s fortunate WWALS testers were diligent! Continue reading

Much cleaner: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-29

Update 2021-05-03: Still clean Friday: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-30.

Despite a Quitman sewage spill last weekend, the Withlacoochee River was already much cleaner Wednesday, as found by WWALS tester Gus Cleary at Cleary Bluff below Allen Ramp. He got similar results for Thursday, confirmed by Valdosta’s upstream results for Wednesday, and Madison Health’s Florida results for Thursday.

How can this be? The massive upstream rains Saturday are coming down the rivers now, washing the contamination downstream and diluting it.

While Madison and Hamilton Counties, Florida, will probably leave their health alert in place until they get a second clean set of Florida results, I’d feel comfortable now with boating, swimming, or fishing in the Withlacoochee River.

I’d still wait a day or so for the Suwannee River downstream of the Withlacoochee.

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

We don’t have any new data for Knights Ferry or Nankin Boat Ramps (our usual testers are off this week, after discovering this problem Monday). So those two locations still show Continue reading

Bad upstream, too: Withlacoochee River water quality 2021-04-26

Update 2021-04-29: Health alert for Withlacoochee River 2021-04-27.

Valdosta results for Monday are just as bad upstream as the WWALS downstream results.

So indeed it’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River for a few days, with bacterial counts this high for April 26, 2021. This is not a good time for boating, fishing, or swimming in the river.

The worse news is that since the Withlacoochee River was contaminated Monday at least as far upstream as US 41, that mess will keep running downstream for probably a day or so, as in it’s probably in Florida today.

The good news is that it’s not nearly as bad as a year ago under similar conditions.

[Bad upstream, water quality results and Swim Guide]
Bad upstream, water quality results and Swim Guide

Thanks to Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson for posting the Valdosta results.

We are still waiting for Madison Health’s downstream results from Tuesday.

One of our WWALS testers also drew a farther downstream sample today.

Until those or later tests show clear, better safe than sorry.

This time it can’t be just cattle manure coming down Okapilco Creek out of Brooks County, Georgia, because all three of Valdosta’s Monday results are for upstream of there. But there is a dairy and a hog farm on the Withlacoochee River upstream of Lowndes County, and at least three horse farms near the river in Lowndes County, plus many cats, dogs, chickens, deer, and septic tanks. Some of their manure was no doubt washed into the creeks and rivers by the Saturday rain. I also won’t be surprised if in a few days we start seeing sewage late reports on the GA-EPD Sewage Spills Report.

This contamination is almost certainly not from the tiny FOG spill Valdosta had Friday. That one wasn’t anywhere near big enough, and US 41 is upstream of Sugar Creek, anyway. Continue reading

Very bad water quality: Withlacoochee River 2021-04-26

Update 2021-04-28: Bad upstream, too: Withlacoochee River water quality 2021-04-26.

It’s best to stay off the Withlacoochee River for a few days, with bacterial counts this high in the samples WWALS testers Michael and Jacob Bachrach took yesterday (Monday). This is not a good time for boating, fishing, or swimming in the river.

[Bad results, Petrifilms, River, Swim Guide]
Bad results, Petrifilms, River, Swim Guide

Probably Madison Health tested today, and we may see results via FDEP tomorrow. But at least until then, better safe than sorry.

This river contamination is most likely the usual cattle manure (and plus some wild hog manure) washed into the creeks and rivers by the Saturday rain. It is almost certainly not from the tiny FOG spill Valdosta had Friday. Continue reading

Clean week despite rain, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-18

Update 2021-03-29: Still clean last week, filthy Friday before, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-26.

Update 2021-03-24: Withlacoochee River still clean, Florida bacterial advisory lifted 2021-03-23.

Surprisingly, the results Michael and Jacob Bachrach got today, for the samples they collected yesterday after the rains, were almost as clean as possible at Knights Ferry and State Line, and really as clean as possible at Nankin Boat Ramp: zero (0) E. coli.

[Good chart, clean plates, green Swim Guide]
Good chart, clean plates, green Swim Guide

This matches what Madison Health saw at the state line, Sullivan Launch, and FL 6 yesterday, presumably just before the rains. And with what Madison Health and Valdosta saw earlier in the week.

It’s surprising because we expected Continue reading

Tifton, Ashburn spills, bad downstream 2021-03-03

Update 2021-03-13: All clear, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-11.

Tifton and Ashburn, Georgia spilled raw sewage, March 3, 2021, both from places that had spilled before. For once we may have actually seen some of that in downstream water quality results. But they could not have caused the extremely high test result at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp that same day, nor the bad results into Florida the next day: those were most likely the usual cattle manure.

[Ashburn, Tifton spills and water quality]
Ashburn, Tifton spills and water quality

The high Fecal coliform at US 41 and GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River that same Wednesday could have been from the Tifton spill on the New River upstream, and the high E. coli at GA 133, all in Valdosta’s thrice-weekly testing. It’s about 64 river miles from 2406 N. Ridge Ave. to US 41, and about 70 miles to GA 133, but with the rivers high and fast, it’s conceivable a spill that started in the early morning (or the previous evening) could have moved downstream that fast.

Or with rains over an inch closer upstream on the Withlacoochee River, something else may have washed into the river. Or both.

The only way to be sure would be DNA tests. Valdosta is supposed to be doing those as part of the Consent Order. We are looking forward to seeing results. Continue reading

More contamination after big rains, Withlacoochee River 2021-03-04

As usual, the big rains washed more contamination into the Withlacoochee River, most likely mostly down Okapilco Creek from cattle in Brooks County, Georgia.

However, since the rains were Monday and Tuesday, by the time Madison Health and WWALS tested Thursday, much of it had already started washing downstream. By Thursday it appears to have already been flushed down to the state line and beyond by more rainwater. By now it’s probably down into the Suwannee River, where it may well have been diluted by even more rainwater coming down the Alapaha and Suwannee Rivers.

So above the state line the Withlacoochee is probably OK to boat, swim, and fish this weekend. It may even be safe below the state line by Saturday morning, although we have no data on that.

[Last week, Swim Guide, this week]
Last week, Swim Guide, this week

So on Swim Guide I’ve set red from the state line down into Florida, yet green at Knights Ferry and Nankin Boat Ramps, as well as green for Valdosta’s readings upstream Monday before the rains.

[Map: Swim Guide]
Map: Swim Guide

The 3,784 cfu/100 mL E. coli Madison Health got at Florida 6 Thursday is far higher than the 1,000 alert limit. But a year ago on Thursday, March 5, 2020, Madison Health got TNTC (Too Numerous To Count) at all three of State Line, Sullivan Launch, and Florida 6. Plus that Friday Valdosta got 4,600 at the state line and 25,000 at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp. So there is still ample room for improvement, but it’s possible that the Best Management Practices (BMPs) the Brooks County dairies have been implementing are starting to work. Continue reading