Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 15, 2020
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Buckets are going back in to the water in Valdosta as volunteers test the Withlacoochee River for potential bacteria.
The Suwannee Riverkeepers are testing the river before this Mayor's Paddle this weekend. Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson is hosting a community paddle Saturday along the Withlacoochee River to tour some of the spots that have been impacted by sewage spills.
The latest spill happened in December 2019, when 7.5 million gallons of sewage seeped from a manhole near Sugar Creek. Health officials in Madison County found unsafe bacteria levels in some locations as recent as last week, which is why volunteers say it's crucial the water continues to be tested.
Last Wednesday, tensions were high at a quarterly meeting between the City of Valdosta and the River Task Force, as several community members expressed their concerns about the sewage spills.
Riverkeeper John Quarterman dropped a bucket in the river on Wednesday to collect a sample. It's a simple process, but the results are critical. Also testing at locations in North Florida, organizers are testing for e-coli.
Volunteers conducted tests last weekend which came back safe, but because of the changing water levels, they say it's vital to continue testing.
"So far so good, but after the type of incident that was seen where it was clean before, that it went back up, apparently some sewage got stuck somewhere and washed loose, we want to keep testing it as close to the paddle as we can," Quarterman said.
Volunteers are hoping local municipalities will start doing this type of testing on a weekly basis, regardless of spills of community events.
The Mayor's Paddle will leave Troupeville Boat Launch at 10am Saturday. Boaters will continue down the Withlacoochee River to Spook Bridge. Anyone from the public is encouraged to attend.
It takes about 24 hours to return results from the water test.
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