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From left, WWALS of Georgia Power Southwest District Director Joe Brownlee, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, and WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall gather at the Troupville Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River near Valdosta.

HAHIRA — Aiding the attempts to clean up the Withlacoochee River, Georgia Power Foundation has provided a substantial grant to WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc. WWALS will buy more water quality testing kits and supplies with the funds, as well as other expenses related to our volunteer water quality testing program.

“Please accept our most sincere thanks for your recognition and support of WWALS Watershed Coalition and our work for clean, fishable, swimmable, boatable water,” WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said in a news release. “We look forward to a productive water quality testing program this year.”

“We’re honored to get to help,” Georgia Power Southwest Region Director Joe Brownlee said. “One of our goals is to make sure the people of Georgia know about our great natural resources. And also that they’re safe. And y’all help do that by making awareness around water testing. And you build strong relationships, I know now, coordinating with the city of Valdosta, making sure they publish their test results. Everything seems to be working and getting better. We’re on a sharp upward curve of getting better with what we do with water and getting to enjoy it. And my little girl, I’m working for her future, and Georgia Power is. Thank y’all, thank you to the volunteer testers, and the Riverkeeper.”

Officials involved in the water testing program said the funding will be beneficial in securing needed materials.

“The response of the Georgia Power grant and Mr. Brownlee’s comments are quite touching (to me) due to the recognition of how difficult it is for a volunteer organization to do biological water testing over a huge area,” WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. said. “The grant enables regular testing that can pinpoint multisource pollution, which requires a varied response. It’s quite gratifying that both individuals and large companies realize this is a complex situation.”

“We have several testers already trained, waiting for testing kits,” WWALS Testing Committee Chair Suzy Hall said. “Thanks to Georgia Power, we can buy them kits and get them started testing. Plus we can buy enough kits to train new testers with physical distancing even during the virus pandemic.”

Persons involved in the cleanup said new materials are vital to continue testing.

“We like to think WWALS water quality testing has already done some good, helping warn people when the waterways are contaminated, helping find contamination sources, and encouraging several governmental organizations in Georgia and Florida to test more,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman said. “With these funds from Georgia Power, we can do much more. Also, thanks to Valdosta Mayor Scott James for introducing us to Joe Brownlee.”

“The more testing, the more we can also check to see whether fixes such as fencing cattle away from waterways are actually working to improve the situation,” WWALS Science Committee Chairman Tom Potter. “Interested governmental, educational, or agricultural organizations are encouraged to contact us about that.”

Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition Inc. advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities.

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