By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 24, 2020
MADISON COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- Several homeowners in Madison County are without water after their wells test positive for dangerous bacteria.
Residents in Blue Ridge Landing say recent tests show positive for e-coli and coliform. The neighborhood is located about one mile from the Withlacoochee River, not far from Blue Springs in Madison County.
Last month, more than seven million gallons of sewage spilled near Sugar Creek in Valdosta. That creek flows in to the Withlacoochee River. Now residents all around Blue Ridge Landing are concerned and frustrated about their unsafe water.
Michael Richardson has owned property in Blue Ridge Landing more than a decade ago. It's now home to his granddaughter and her children. He says they have had minor issues with their wells for years, recalling times when "watered down iced tea" colored water would drain from the sinks.
But over the last few years, he says those problems have gotten significantly worse. Richardson now buys bottled water for everything, from drinking to washing dishes. On Friday his wells tested positive for e-coli and coliform.
"I can't leave my grandchildren, my great grandchildren here and have something happen. They get sick or something because one of them's drinking the water, I just don't know. It's terrible," Richardson said. "It's putting everybody in the neighborhood, you can't wash, you can't shower, you can't do dishes, you can't do nothing. They say, do not use the water."
Fed up with having unsafe water, and fearing for this family's safety, he plans to move them back to Saint Petersburg.
We spoke to about half a dozen homeowners in the area Friday that were in the midst of testing their wells, something many said they had never done before.
A similar story arises just down the road.
Kimmy Angel lived right on the river for 16 years, not far from the Nestle Bottling Plant. She said health and safety concerns never go away.
"All day long, every day. We don't know what we're ingesting every time we brush our teeth," Angel said.
Angel has watched her children grow up enjoying the Withlacoochee, after having done the same. Now she fears she'll never be able to swim in the river again.
Like many homeowners in the area, they don't believe enough is being done to stop spills happening upstream in Valdosta.
"It inhibits us from enjoying what we paid dearly for, it's damaging. We're all backwoods, we're country and we're a river family," Angel said. "We just beg Valdosta to please stop dumping, just please do what they do can do on their end."
Health departments in Madison, Hamilton and Suwannee Counties issued multiple health advisories regarding the December spill, the most recent being earlier this month. That advisory was lifted Friday.
The health advisories pertain to tests done in the Withlacoochee River, and are not related to individual wells.
Local health departments do offer test kits and information to help homeowners test their well water.
The City of Valdosta is required by the Georgia EPD to test the river surrounding the spot of the spill for 365 days.