Category Archives: Health

Sign up for final toll road Task Force meetings 2020-10-19

Please register today to comment with in the last M-CORES Task Force meetings Tuesday (Suncoast Corridor) and Wednesday (Northern Turnpike Corridor). You must register online by 5PM the day before each meeting.
https://floridamcores.com/calendar-of-events/

Previous public comments overwhelmingly oppose these toll roads, but we need still more comments.

[Pie-chart 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Pie-chart 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

Please tell the Task Forces to reject their Final Report, because it established no need, yet left it possible for FDOT to continue preparing to build these toll roads. Ask the Task Force to outright reject the Report and instead to report No Build.

After the Florida Governor cut $1 billion from the budget is no time to be wasting tax dollars on toll roads for which their own Task Forces can find no need. In addition to all the damage these toll roads would do to our rivers, springs, and swamps, without need, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, just like Texas SH 130.

Yes, this is yet another deadline after the report comment deadline. But please do also comment to the Task Force.

Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS is a signatory of the Join Comment Letter by members of No Roads to Ruin (NRTR), and Suwannee Riverkeeper voted in the unanimous Waterkeepers Florida approval to sign that letter.

NRTR has released a Press Release with analysis showing 93% of public comments so far oppose the toll roads, with only 4% for and 3% unclear. That puts numbers on the massive public opposition that was visible even in the Suncoast Connector Task Force report “summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public”.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

Rural Florida needs fast Internet service, but no new roads are needed to do that. For hurricanes, better shelters and rural solar and batteries for power afterwards would cost much less and be much more effective than these toll roads.

Please add your comment to the Task Force saying No Build! Continue reading

Twomile Branch and Withlacoochee River 2020-07-28

Update 2020-07-31: Just when you think it’s safe, nope, Withlacoochee River to GA-FL line 2020-07-29.

For Monday, July 27, 2020, Valdosta reports still slightly elevated bacterial counts at GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River, but nothing like the alert level of Friday. Yet counts at US 41 upstream and US 84 downstream remain completely normal. We can guess that rainwater coming down the Little River into the Withlacoochee diluted the contamination.

[Towmile Branch, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River]
Towmile Branch, Sugar Creek, Withlacoochee River

We don’t know where that Friday GA 133 contamination came from. Both Valdosta and Lowndes County say they did not spill any sewage, and the state of Georgia still reports no sewage spills in the Suwannee River Basin (ditto for Florida).

[Downstream, 16:25:10, 30.8661346, -83.3102568]
Downstream, 16:25:10, 30.8661346, -83.3102568

I even tested Tuesday on Twomile Branch just below Joree Millpond and behind the last house on Lake Drive (thanks to the landowner). Results there were higher than are good for longterm average, but below the single test limit.

[Upstream again, 16:12:23, 30.864, -83.3158]
Upstream, Twomile Branch, Lake Drive, Valdosta, GA, 2020-07-28, 16:12:23, 30.8640000, -83.3158000

We have no Valdosta results downstream of US 84 since Wednesday a week ago, and nothing from Florida since Tuesday a week ago. Continue reading

Water quality testing grant from Georgia Power 2020-06-27

July 27, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Georgia Power grants funds to WWALS for Water Quality Testing

Hahira, GA, July 27, 2020 — Aiding our attempts to clean up the Withlacoochee River, Georgia Power Foundation has provided a substantial grant to WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (“WWALS”). 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,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman. “We look forward to a productive water quality testing program this year.”

“We’re honored to get to help,” said Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest Region Director. “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.”

[Joe Brownlee, Georgia Power Southwest District Director]
Photo: 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, at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River, near Valdosta, Georgia.

“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. The grant enables regular testing that can pinpoint multi-source pollution, which requires a varied response. It’s quite gratifying that both individuals and large companies realize this is a complex situation,” said WWALS President Tom H. Johnson, Jr.

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

“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,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “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,” said WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter. “Interested governmental, educational, or agricultural organizations please contact us about that.”

About WWALS: Founded in June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) 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. John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS as the member of Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River Basin.

WWALS Water Quality Testing is summarized here: https://wwals.net/issues/testing/ Here is a video about this grant: https://youtu.be/zy0N_kRhPfI

Contact: Gretchen Quarterman, Executive Director
WWALS Watershed Coalition
wwalswatershed@gmail.com
850-290-2350
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632

===
(See also PDF.)

Alert bacteria level at GA 133, Withlacoochee River, Friday 2020-07-24

Update 2020-07-30: Twomile Branch and Withlacoochee River 2020-07-28.

Valdosta reports very high fecal bacterial results for Friday at GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River: 1,410 cfu/100 mL E. coli and even higher for Fecal coliform. We don’t know what caused that: GA-EPD did not report any spills that day, and has not yet put up a new Sewage Spills Report for today. I am checking with the obvious suspects.

[GA 133 west of Valdosta, east of Troupville Boat Ramp]
GA 133 on the Withlacoochee River west of Valdosta, east of Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River.
On the Withlacoochee River, GA 133 is marked by the white circle, with the US 41 bridge at top right and the US 84 bridge towards the lower left, in this WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).

Here is a chart of the data and recent rainfall. Note not much rain upstream on the Withlacoochee River. If the contamination came from upstream, it should have shown up first at US 41. Although conceivably it might have passed by US 41 on Thursday between samples. Continue reading

The illusion of pipeline invincibility is shattered –WWALS Brief to FERC in Sabal Trail Rehearing

Let’s cut to the chase in the letter we filed with FERC yesterday:

11. Historic new circumstances add up

The sun never set on the British Empire. Until it did.

No one circumstance ended that Empire, but it is easy to point at major events that accelerated its demise, such as the independence of India and the Suez Incident. Its fall started after the illusion of its invincibility was shattered by Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience and other events such as World War II.

The illusion of invincibility of the inland colonial empire of pipelines has been shattered by recent court orders about the ACP, DAPL, and others, and especially by the shut down of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the shuttering of the Constitution Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. All of those pipelines were expected to be built, and DAPL actually was built before being ordered to shut down and empty. Now the world knows that pipelines are not inevitable.

All these pipeline projects, like Sabal Trail, were opposed by nonviolent protests and political and legal actions. All those methods of opposition, combined with the sea-change in progress to renewable energy, eventually added up to a new and significantly different world than that in which Sabal Trail was permitted or re-permitted.

The shut down of DAPL and the abandonment of ACP as well as the court rejection of tolling orders make it a new world even since FERC’s June 19, 2020, Order granting a rehearing on Sierra Club’s motion.

FERC should initiate a new [Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] EIS that should take into account Sabal Trail’s own track record of leaks and sinkholes, as well as leaks and accidents from [Liquid Natural Gas] LNG export and LNG transport in rail cars, the speeding demise of fossil fuels as evidenced by record low LNG export prices and bankruptcies of frackers, the court rejections of DAPL, ACP, and tolling orders and how much of Sabal Trail could never have been built through environmental justice communities without tolling orders, the coronavirus pandemic, and the rapid rise of renewable solar, wind, and battery power as evidenced by FPL and Sabal Trail partners Duke and NextEra, as well as by FERC’s own numbers. All of those new and significant circumstances make pipelines such as Sabal Trail toxic stranded assets, dangerous to the bank accounts of their investors, as well as to the environment, justice, and human health.

Conclusion

For the reasons stated above, WWALS asks FERC to grant Sierra Club’s motion for stay of the Commission’s letter order of April 22, 2020, to halt Sabal Trail Phase II, and to commence a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) taking into account all of the above new and significant circumstances.

[Third-party inspection, recission, stay, SEIS]
Third-party inspection, recission, stay, SEIS

For those who are not familiar with tolling orders, they are basically how, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gives federal eminent domain to a private pipeline company, FERC lets that pipeline company take land before any payment to the landowner or even any agreement is reached. Without tolling orders, it’s not clear the FERC will ever get another pipeline built.

Here’s a longer explanation. Continue reading

Bad Knights Ferry in Valdosta data down to state line, Monday and Wednesday 2020-07-08

This very high Valdosta Monday 1,600 E. coli data for Knights Ferry Boat Ramp and even higher 3,200 for Nankin Boat Ramp help explain the Florida high result downstream on Tuesday, which itself helped explain yesterday’s Florida bacterial alert for the Withlacoochee River.

[Valdosta Monday and Wednesday results]
Valdosta Monday and Wednesday results
For the complete WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida results and other context, see wwals.net/issues/testing/.

For how bad those numbers are, see What do these numbers mean?

Valdosta’s Wednesday Nankin result was better, and its Knights Ferry 570 result at least wasn’t as horrible, although that was still higher than the one-time sample 410 limit. Yet Okapilco Creek @ US 84 had actually gotten worse.

So we can hope the Florida downstream good results are a good indicator. But there could be more E. coli still coming down the Withlacoochee River.

WWALS testers are collecting samples today and tomorrow, so we shall see.

Meanwhile, we have to put Knights Ferry Boat Ramp back to red on Swim Guide, because that’s the most recent data we have for it. Nankin just barely squeaks by under 410, so it’s green like all the eight Withlacoochee River “beaches,” except Knights Ferry.

[Red Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee River, 2020-07-08]
Red Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee River, 2020-07-08

Thanks to Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson for getting this Valdosta downstream data published. Maybe that can become standard practice, so people will have a better idea of river conditions before the weekend. This is in Valdosta’s own interest, since it usually shows Continue reading

Data behind and after Florida bacterial advisory for Withlacoochee River 2020-07-09

Update 2020-07-10: Bad Knights Ferry in Valdosta data down to state line, Monday and Wednesday 2020-07-08.

Update 2020-07-10 13:00: FDEP Thursday data has been posted, with results back within normal bounds.

Today FDEP posted FDOH data from Tuesday, which shows 471 cfu/100 mL E. coli at CR 150 (Sullivan Launch). Presumably this is what provoked yesterday’s bacterial advisory for the Withlacoochee River from Madison and Hamilton County Health Departments.

[Bad at CR 150, increasing upstream]
Bad at CR 150, increasing upstream
For the complete WWALS composite spreadsheet of Georgia and Florida results and other context, see wwals.net/issues/testing/.

Thanks to Valdosta PIO Ashlyn Johnson, Valdosta also published Wednesday data, which shows higher E. coli readings than usual, higher than the 126 geometric average limit, although still below the 410 single-test limit. See What do these numbers mean?

Update 2020-07-10 13:00: Actually, with the FDEP Thursday data, Swim Guide is all green again for the Withlacoochee River in both Georgia and Florida. And the Little River, too, since we have no updated data yet. We’ll have at least one datapoint collected today or tomorrow on that.

[Green map in Swim Guide]
Green map in Swim Guide

I was mistaken about the WWALS samples for Crooked Creek: those are being collected today, along with some others today and tomorrow. I still won’t be surprised if they’re high in E. coli, although since the rains seem to have died down, I also won’t be surprised if the contamination has already flushed downstream and maybe even been diluted.

But we don’t know. Especially that part about downstream of FL 6: nobody is testing down there.

Floridians, you may want to ask your statehouse delegation and FDEP and other appointed officials to fund and implement regular, frequent, water quality testing all the way to the Gulf. If Valdoosta, GA, can do it on forty river miles to the state line, the great state of Florida can do it.

Oh, and it would help if Valdosta would post its results to the state line a bit more speedily.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Possible bacterial contamination, Withlacoochee River, Hamilton, Madison Co. FL 2020-07-09

Update 2020-07-10: Data behind and after Florida bacterial advisory for Withlacoochee River 2020-07-09.

It’s a Florida Health Department advisory of possible bacterial contamination, so I have set the four Florida Swim Guide “beaches” to red: Sullivan Launch, Florida Campsites, Madison Blue Spring, and Madison Ramp. However, since the advisory only says “Elevated indicators of fecal bacteria” without saying what those indicators are, and I can find no actual data, I have left the Georgia “beaches” green for now: US 84 Landing and Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line Boat Ramps.

[Swim Guide: red Withlacoochee River in Florida]
Swim Guide: red Withlacoochee River in Florida

Here’s the advisory, received today at 4:38 PM.

Until further information is known regarding possible bacterial contamination of the river, people in the area are urged to take precautions when in contact with the Withlacoochee River. The Florida Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection are conducting water sampling.

Indeed, little seems to be known.

[Possible Bacterial Contamination of Withlacoochee River]
Possible Bacterial Contamination of Withlacoochee River
PDF

I can only guess Madison and Hamilton Health Departments are concerned by all that rain upstream for the past week. That does usually wash E. coli into the Withlacoochee River. Continue reading

Bike and Paddle Suwannee River, Hal W. Adams Bridge, 2020-08-29

Canceled due to “the Weather Channel reporting 80% chance of severe weather.” We look forward to seeing you on future outings.

Bicycles and boats! There’s no shuttle, because we get from the takeout to the put-in on bicycles, on this Suwannee River paddle, with optional river camping.

[Paddle Map: WWALS SRWT]
Paddle Map: WWALS map of Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT)

Meet at Hal W. Adams Bridge, unload boats and gear. We will have a designated person watch the boasts and gear.

Drive cars to Hardenbergh Public Boat Ramp. Bike about 30 minutes back along CR 354 to Hal W. Adams Bridge, secure bikes, launch boats, paddle to Telford Springs, and cool off a bit.

Paddle to Peacock Slough River Camp. Camp overnight (or paddle through). Call Suwannee River Wilderness Trail for reservations at 800-868-9914.

We can rest at Cow Springs and pass Drew Bridge for historical site and take out at Hardenbergh Bridge.

This outing eliminates putting people at COVID-19 risk by removing the need to shuttle. We will be able to maintain social distancing while paddling and biking.

When: Gather 9 AM, launch 10 AM, Saturday, August 29, 2020

Bring: a bicycle, and the usual personal flotation device, boat paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. If you’re going to camp, bring camping gear. Also trash pickers and trash bags: every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.

Boats: Kayaks and maybe canoes are available to borrow but please let us know at least 2 days prior to the event. Bring your own if you have it.

Free: This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 (ten dollars) for non-members. We recommend you support the work of WWALS by becoming a WWALS member today!

Put In: Hal W. Adams Bridge Ramp, From Mayo, Continue reading

Ask Gov. DeSantis to veto M-CORES from the budget 2020-06-05

Please write today, something like this:


To: Governor Ron DeSantis <governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com>
Subject: Please redirect M-CORES toll roads funds to critical state needs

Please wield your veto pen to remove from the budget the $90 million dedicated to M-CORES.

Signed, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper


Back in April, WWALS sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis asking him to repurpose toll road funds and we asked you to do that, too.

On June 5, 2020, eighty organizations including WWALS wrote to Gov. DeSantis requesting the same, as you can see below.

Now the Florida state budget is on his desk, so he has an opportunity to do this. Please help. Contact the Governor today.

No Roads to Ruin Letter June 5, 2020

Continue reading