Madison community fed up with contaminated water

Published: Feb. 26, 2020 at 11:08 PM EST
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By: Amber Spradley | WCTV Eyewitness News

February 26, 2020

MADISON, Fla. (WCTV) -- Madison County Board of Commissioners held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the county's high levels of E. coli and other contaminants in the Withlacoochee River and wells.

Board members say it's fallout from multiple sewage spills happening in south Georgia, particularly the sewage spill in Valdosta last December.

It resulted in more than seven million gallons of sewage leaking into the Withlacoochee River.

Since then, the Madison County crews have been testing the river and well water weekly. Tonight, the latest test results showed 17 wells with E. coli.

"When I go to a tap...and get a drink of water, I get my water, and I assume it's clean," Chairman Donnie Waldrep said. "And these people can't do that. They can't use their water. They can't use the river."

Chairman Waldrep says the impact is also affecting the county financially because it relies on the river for ecotourism.

"This is a state issue," county commissioner Rick Davis said. "It's not a Madison County issue or Hamilton County issue, Suwannee or Lafayette, all the way down to Levy County. This has a regional impact."

County leaders say they're ready to action. A motion was approved Wednesday night to consider appointing an attorney.

"My constituents, my voters, keep asking me, 'Why are we not filing a lawsuit?' But before you file a lawsuit, you have to do a fact-finding mission, and that's what we're going to do to get an opinion from an environmental lawyer," Chairman Waldrep said.

The city of Valdosta says they've added seven new test sites on the river, and they continue to monitor those multiple times throughout the week.

According to the city's public information officer, Ashlyn Becton,

over the last couple of months have come back clean.

"So it has been maybe an issue in the past", she said. "We've done a lot to invest in our infrastructure. So we have seen that number go down, but of course zero is what we're aiming for. No spill is acceptable. So we're doing whatever we can to get that number down to zero."

She says, though, tests results in January and early February show high contamination levels in Okapilco Creek.

"We are doing a little more testing in that area just to try to see if we can maybe determine the contamination source. It's something we want to keep an eye on, but it's definitely south of our outfall," Becton said.

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