Tag Archives: Florida Department of Health

Withlacoochee, Suwannee good, Okapilco Creek bad water quality 2020-01-18

Update 2020-01-23: Okapilco Creek better, Withlacoochee still clean 2020-01-22.

The good news: Gretchen Quarterman’s test results from the Mayor’s Paddle Saturday were clean.

[Gretchen Quarterman testing during Mayor's Paddle (Suzy Hall)]
Photo: Suzy Hall, of Gretchen Quarterman testing during Mayor’s Paddle 2020-01-18

The Withlacoochee River tested clean all the way from the state line to the Suwannee, and the Suwannee River clean all the way to US 250, on Friday, January 17, 2020, according to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). But somebody (Valdosta?) needs to pay for the well and river testing incurred to date from that record-largest Valdosta raw sewage spill of December 2019. And we need ongoing regular, closely spaced, water quality testing, and sources of funding (Valdosta?) for that, for at least two reasons detailed below.

Maybe you’d like to come talk about that at the Florida Rivers Task Force meeting 4PM today at the Holiday Inn, 213 SW Commerce Blvd, Lake City, FL, or at the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC) meeting at 7PM, same location.

Or you can speak in Citizens To Be Heard at the end of the Valdosta City Council meeting, 5:30 PM today, Valdosta City Hall, 216 E. Central Ave., Valdosta, GA.

[Clean rivers 2020-01-15-18]
Clean rivers 2020-01-15-18
The entire composite spreadsheet by WWALS is on the WWALS website, along with the recent data from Lowndes County and Florida.

The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) projection reported by WCJB on Thursday that Valdosta sewage had reached the Suwannee River fortunately proved not to come to pass. Cleaner Friday than Thursday, by results from WWALS, Lowndes County (which has its own sewer system that did not spill), and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Valdosta did not test on any weekdays last week, even though their Mayor was scheduled to paddle.

The difficulty of projecting river flows is one reason continual testing is the only way to be sure what’s in our rivers.

What’s in Okapilco Creek?

The interesting news: Lowndes County found high E. coli on Okapilco Creek south of Continue reading

Recent water quality test results, Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers 2020-01-11

Update 2020-01-15: Georgia Department of Health can’t or won’t do as much as FDOH 2020-01-07.

The Withlacoochee River still looks clean for the Mayor’s Paddle from Troupville Boat Ramp to Spook Bridge this Saturday.

SRWMD actually tested upstream from there last Wednesday at GA 133. SRWMD’s and FDEP’s test at US 84, Knights Ferry, and State Line Boat Ramp (GA 31) were also clean that day, and the next day 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.

[Most recent contamination]
Most recent contamination

The not so good news is that the most recent FDOH tests in Florida, Continue reading

Water quality permitting, paddle with Mayor of Valdosta this Saturday 2020-01-18

Update 2020-01-17: Mostly clean in Georgia, not in Florida, Withlacoochee River 2020-01-15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, January 13, 2020 — Water quality tests since last Wednesday are looking good for the Withlacoochee River in Georgia, and if those continue this Monday and Wednesday, it will be all clear to paddle with the new Mayor of Valdosta, Scott James, this Saturday, January 18, 2020. “We’ll paddle by the site of the projected Troupville River Camp, supported by Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia, and Madison and Hamilton Counties, Florida,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “We’ll also pass the outflow from Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), which did not spill, although it is in a stretch of the river that was contaminated by Valdosta’s December 2019 record raw sewage spill.”

[Movie: WWTP Outfall, 11:23:17, 30.83622, -83.35924 (15M)]
WWTP Outfall, 2019-06-15 30.8362200, -83.3592400

Mayor Scott James was quoted in Valdosta Today:

“The paddle was requested by me and John was gracious enough to organize it and call it the ‘Mayor’s Paddle.’ It is to show my commitment to zero tolerance for future spills and to show my love for our natural resources.”

“The only way to dispell the stigma of sewage spills that affects the entire Suwannee River Basin, is frequent, regular, water quality sampling with published results,” added Quarterman. “The dozen-county Florida Rivers Task Force to deal with Valdosta sewage wants to promote cross-state-line eco-tourism. We should all be marketing our rivers. We are, with this paddle, and with Troupville River Camp. But we need a solid foundation of testing so we can say when the rivers are clean, and the few (we hope) times when they are not.”

WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., parent organization of Suwannee Riverkeeper, will be collecting water quality samples this Wednesday at numerous points on the Withlacoochee River to have current results before the paddle. Lowndes County (which has its own sewer system, that did not spill) is sampling weekly. The Florida Department of Enviromental Protection (FDEP) and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) are sampling downstream, and SRWMD has even sampled some sites well into Georgia. WWALS is publishing all this data, along with what data Valdosta has supplied in response to open records requests, online:
http://wwals.net/issues/vww/valdosta-spills/#vldrecord2019

On the paddle, WWALS will be sampling above and below the WWTP outfall and at other locations along the route.

Meanwhile, the recent rains have provided plenty of water in the river, several feet more than when we paddled the same route with 300 people in Paddle Georgia in June 2019, so we should have smooth sailing!

How To Paddle with the Mayor

Continue reading

Valdosta sewage in Florida 2019-12-26

Update 2020-01-01: Much cleaner at Knights Ferry and State Line in Georgia; Valdosta Sewage is in Florida 2019-12-30

Apparently the biggest slug of Valdosta sewage passed the state line on December 26, 2019.

[Testing locations]
Testing locations

Thanks to Chris Mericle for forwarding the December 25 and 26 data from the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), which I think is getting from from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). I’ve combined those data in a table with the numbers from December 24, and ordered them from north (upstream) to south (downstream).

Here are the preliminary Continue reading

High E. coli at state line in Florida DOH water quality data 2019-12-24

According to data sent yesterday by Florida Department of Health (FDOH), Valdosta found elevated E. coli and Fecal coliform counts at US 84, 14 miles downstream from Sugar Creek, on December 18th.

[14-18 Dec 2019]
14-18 Dec 2019

That is consistent with Suzy Hall finding high E. coli counts at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp 8.44 miles downstream and three days later on December 21st.

It’s also consistent with FDOH detecting elevated E. coli after a rainy weekend at the state line 15.55 miles and three more days later on December 24th.

[24 Dec 2019]
24 Dec 2019

FDOH sent no data from Valdosta for any days after Continue reading

Water fast and dirty at Nankin Boat Ramp after Valdosta record sewage spill 2019-12-26

2019-12-28: High E. coli at state line in Florida DOH water quality data 2019-12-24.

At Nankin Thursday: 533 cfu/100 mL E. coli, well above the state limit of 200, and up from 33 on December 15, and zero on December 11 and 8 and November 23.

Florida already saw elevated bacterial counts at the state line on Tuesday, so the Withlacoochee River is apparently contaminated with Valdosta sewage all the way from Sugar Creek down to the Florida line. Yet Valdosta still hasn’t put up any warning signs on the Withlacoochee River downstream from Sugar Creek.

[Across]
Across

That December 26th reading by Suzy Hall at Nankin Boat Ramp isn’t as high as her recent numbers at Knights Ferry: 6,767 on December 24 and 4,966 on December 21st (with 100 on December 15th and zero on December 11th). Nonetheless, it looks like Valdosta’s sewage has spread downstream from Knights Ferry to Nankin.

At 533 cfu/100 ml, you probably don’t want to get that river water on you. Georgia standards indicate Continue reading

Valdosta and Florida water quality data after Valdosta record raw sewage spill 2019-12-16

Update 2019-12-17: WWALS Water Quality Testing US 84 & FL Campsites, Withlacoochee River 2019-12-16.

Here is Valdosta’s water quality testing data since the spill was discovered.

Apparently the spill was so bad it actually went upstream on Hightower Creek to St. Augustine Road, judging by the 1530 Fecal coliform cfu/100 ml reading on December 10th and 1275 on December 11th. Sugar Creek at Gornto Road was 5100 that day, and 8100 on December 11th. A reading of 1000 indicates a real problem. This was far worse.

The good news is that the levels are decreasing at those sampling stations.

The better news is that the sewage had not made it downstream even as far as US 84 (Valdosta sampling) or anywhere on the Withlacoochee or Suwannee Rivers in Florida (SRWMD sampling) as of December 15, 2019. (WWALS already got SRWMD’s data from Wednesday, December 12, 2019 last week and published it).

[Testing locations]
Testing locations

You may notice a big gap between US 84 and CR 150 (Sullivan Launch). We have already published some WWALS data for Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps, in which we also did not yet see the Valdosta sewage. More will follow today.

You can donate to help pay for the Petrifilms and other equipment.

Also notice that the Florida Department of Health titles this: “SITUATION REPORT – Dec 3 2019 Valdosta Sewage Spill”. So apparently Valdosta’s record-largest raw sewage spill started Tuesday, December 3rd, not Continue reading

Raise no limits, sample more water, publish timely –WWALS to FDEP Triennial Review 2019-05-31

Dear FDEP, please raise no pollutant limits, do more water quality monitoring, and publish all testing results in days, not months.

[More water quality monitoring]
More water quality monitoring

Continue reading

Monthly Florida bacterial monitoring 2019-02-21

Two weeks ago, WWALS member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson asked the state of Florida what baseline water quality testing had been done downstream of Valdota, and:

Please begin water samplings for the isotope for sucralose, fecal coliform testing and any other water testing establishing what or who is culpable of contamination in our protected, Outstanding Florida Waterways.

Yesterday she got an answer. She agrees with my assessment of the data supplied: “Sparse locations and only monthly, but better than nothing.”

[DEAR bacterial monthly sampling stations]
DEAR bacterial monthly sampling stations

However, how can the state of Florida be “committed to monitoring and stopping this recurring problem.” when they “do not allow for enforcement actions directed at the source of sanitary sewer overflows, nor for routine water quality surveillance for sources of river water contamination”?

Now it’s true that last restriction was only cited as applying to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), not the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration (DEAR), and not to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD). But which of this alphabet soup of agencies should be doing “routine water quality surveillance for sources of river water contamination”?

The beginning of the final paragraph of the response does not indicate any intention Continue reading

The rest of the Valdosta wastewater story at SRWMD 2019-02-12

Valdosta Utilities naturally painted as rosy a picture as possible, and newspapers have limited space, so here is the rest of the story about Valdosta wastewater at the Suwannee River Water Management District board meeting last Tuesday. SRWMD Chair Virginia H. Johns understands the stigma, and Board Member Virginia Sanchez spelled it out:

SRWMD Chair Virginia H. Johns

“You don’t want to swim in a little sewage versus a lot of sewage either. Both of them are bad. A spill is bad.”

Featured in this post, drawing from the WWALS videos of all the relevant speakers, are Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse, who talked about the catch basin Valdosta is digging, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, who filled in many pieces omitted by Valdosta and FDEP, and Hamilton County resident Jim McBrayer, who got the attention of the SRWMD board by saying there was E. coli in his well and SRWMD should know where it came from, plus especially the very participatory SRWMD board, who made it pretty clear to FDEP they wanted data by their next meeting, and they wanted Valdosta to move along in fixing their problems in less than a hundred years.

Let’s not forget Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, who pointed out something Valdosta doesn’t want to hear: it’s the stigma of sewage spills that is the big problem they are causing. For sure we need to find out what the specific health and other effects are of Valdosta sewage and other contamination on river water and nearby wells. But the stigma of Valdosta sewage goes far beyond that.

Darryl Muse, Utilities Director, Valdosta

In the WWALS video, Continue reading