"It's a real shame, and we have close to 50 to 60 people that come down here for the natural beauty and the great water," said Matt Meersman.
People can't enjoy the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers because of a sewage spill from Valdosta leaking into the rivers.
"I was bummed because we've heard about that happening in the past, and sometimes that's even kept us off the river," said Meersman.
Meersman and his friends enjoy visiting the Suwannee River to train for canoe races. According to the City of Valdosta, heavy rains have caused about 7.5 million gallons of highly treated waste water to wash into the Withlacoochee River, which connects to the Suwannee. Signs are posted around the Suwannee River State Park to let people know about the possible dangers of swimming in the water.
"When it's impacted by stuff like this, it makes it hard on us to think about it as the pristine place that we like to think of it as," said Meersman.
Meersman says there are other rivers around the area they can practice on in the meantime, but he says he's tired of the spills.
"It's bad enough to see trash, but when you know there are things in the water that can hurt you that shouldn't be there, that makes it pretty frustrating," said Meersman.
News Release: Florida Department of Health
TALLAHASSEE- The Florida Department of Health (DOH) today issued an advisory to residents in counties surrounding the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. The City of Valdosta has reported a spill, made up of a combination of storm water and partially treated sewage, that has overflowed into the Withlacoochee River. The Withlacoochee flows south and connects with the Suwannee River.
Until further information is known regarding possible contamination of the rivers, residents are urged to take precautions when in contact with the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. This includes those individuals in the counties of Hamilton, Madison and Suwannee.
Water contaminated by wastewater overflow presents several health hazards to humans and may contain untreated human sewage with microbes that could cause gastro-intestinal and other diseases.
Anyone who comes in contact with the river water should wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking. Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to disease so every precaution should be taken if in contact with the river water.
For more information about the potential health effects of wastewater overflow, Floridians are encouraged to contact their local county health department. To find contact information for your county health department, please visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/ .
Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook. DOH protects, promotes and improves the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.
News Release: Associated Press News
VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Florida health officials are warning residents along the Withlacoochee and Suwanee rivers to take precautions because of a spill of storm water and partially treated sewage upstream in Valdosta, Ga.
Valdosta reported a spill of about 9 million gallons in to the Withlacoochee River on Feb. 22-23 due to heavy rains. The Withlacoochee River flows south and connects with the Suwanee River.
The Florida Department of Health says anyone who comes into contact with river water should wash thoroughly. The department says children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable and should take every precaution if they have contact with river water.
The city of Valdosta says it is making improvements to the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant to prevent future problems.