VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Withlacoochee River still looks clean for the Mayor’s Paddle from Troupville Boat Ramp to Spook Bridge this Saturday, an event hosted by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., as a means of reducing the negative stigma attached to the latest sewage spill.
One of the concerns voiced by citizens at the recent public meetings was why there was not signage at various water entry points to warn the public of contamination. Lowndes County has put up signs in the last week.
The Suwanee River Water Management District (SRWMD) actually tested upstream from there last Wednesday at GA 133. SRWMD’s and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) test at US 84, Knights Ferry, and State Line Boat Ramp (GA 31) were also clean that day, and the next day the Florida Dept. of Health (FDOH) tested at GA 31 and still found it clean. Suzy Hall tested for WWALS this Saturday, and found Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps clean.
Here is a comprehensive spreadsheet of the testing.
The not so good news is that the most recent FDOH tests in Florida, on Thursday, January 9, found higher counts that would be pleasant at CR 141 (Allen Ramp).
So the big slug of bacterial contamination that Lowness County and FDEP saw on Monday, January 6, and FDEP tracked down the Withlacoochee River to FL 6 on January 8, and FDOH saw at CR 141 on January 9, may still be moving down the Withlacoochee River in Florida.
“We hope to see test results maybe later today or tomorrow, from Lowndes County in Georgia and FDEP, SRWMD, or FDOH in Florida for this Monday, January 13, 2020,” WWALS’ John S. Quarterman stated. “WWALS will be testing numerous locations on the Withlacoochee River tomorrow, January 15, 2020, so our results should be available at the latest Friday morning, January 17, 2020.”
Also note Valdosta saw a rather high 520 Fecal coliform count at GA 133 three days before Lowndes County counted high Fecal coliform and E. coli at Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line on January 6.
“But, unlike Lowndes County, Valdosta did not tell anybody,” Quarterman added. “I got Valdosta data for that day through an open records request that arrived shortly before the meeting in Valdosta on January 8th.”
To see test results on a spreadsheet, click here.
The left of the spreadsheet shows recent data are Lowndes County’s first tests, which you can see were within safe levels. But Lowndes County continued the process it started, and tested again.
“A week later it got counts quite high on the same day that FDEP did,” Quarterman continued. “Lowndes County (which has its own septic system that did not spill) continues it process with weekly testing, including, if I’m not mistaken, adding more upstream testing stations.”
Quarterman suggests that this might not be the end of it as sewage, including diapers and every other thing that is flushed down the toilet and into the rivers could get stuck in “deadfalls.” Some of that raw sewage, according to Quarterman, sitting in Sugar Creek and the Withlacoochee River for that amount of time could have seeped into the ground. “And there are all the expenses of counties and people for well-testing, river water testing, meetings, etc.,” Quarterman said.
Valdosta Today will continue to cover this ongoing issue with a follow-up tomorrow about further testing. Director of Special Communications and Special Projects Courtney Sheeley from the South Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health has reached out to VT today to clarify their role in how citizens are notified and by whom.