HAHIRA — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp near, WWALS Watershed worker Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67/100 cfu E. coli, far higher than anything previously recorded there, and almost five times the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert level. There were still no warning signs, not at Knights Ferry, and not at State Line Boat Ramp, where Hall got 100 cfu/100 ml, where all previous readings had been zero.
“It appears that Valdosta’s record-largest wastewater leak has caused a public health emergency in the Withlacoochee River, and Valdosta is not even warning people about it at river access locations,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said in a news release. “Florida is being proactive; what is Valdosta doing? How about Lowndes Health? Lowndes County (didn’t cause this problem, but needs to help deal with it). Georgia EPD? EPA? State House and Congressional delegations? This report will go to all of them today.”
The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Bacterial Monitoring manual says: “E. coli counts (cfu/100ml) that exceed 235 cfu/100 ml are considered ‘high’ and should be closely monitored, but when counts exceed the 1,000 cfu/100 ml threshold, they warrant special action. A count of 235 cfu/100 ml correlates to 8 incidents of 1,000 people getting sick, but a count of 1,000 cfu/100 ml correlates to about 14 incidents of 1,000 people getting sick.”
Officials with the WWALS Watershed group say it’s not clear how many people getting sick would correlate to 4,966.67/100, but more than 14, and any is too many.
“Thanks to all who have already donated, we are ordering more Petrifilm today,” WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said. “Looks like we’re going to need it. Nobody else appears to be testing at the Little River confluence, or at Spook Bridge, Knights Ferry, Nankin or State Line Boat Ramp.”
The only Valdosta warning sign on any river remains the one at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, upstream of the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River.
The public can help WWALS test water quality by donating to its WWALS water quality testing program. Each bacterial test costs $6 for Petrifilms alone. WWALS officials say they are spending about $40 a day on Petrifilms in the wake of the Valdosta spill.