News 2019

News Stories about WWALS 2019.
For the rest see News.

  • 2019-12-28: Environmental group welcomes winter solstice with light parade,

    [Bobby McKenzie paddling]
    Bobby McKenzie paddling

    LAKELAND — Five boats participated in the first-ever WWALS Light Parade on Banks Lake, with 30 to 40 viewers on the fishing pier, at the winter solstice Dec. 21.

    “We had lots of spectators and enjoyed the evening with our S’Mores and hot chocolate,” said Shelby Miller, who came up with the idea of the WWALS Light Parade.

    The winners were:

    • First place: Bobby McKenzie
    • Second place: Eli Harrell
    • Third place: Allison Ray

    McKenzie donated….

  • 2019-12-27: Robin Postell, Valdosta Today, December 27, 2019 (see WWALS PR), Brooks Residents Receive Health Advisory,

    [Valdosta Caution sign]
    Photo: Scotti Jay, of Valdosta Caution sign at Troupville Boat Ramp, 2019-12-21.

    Editor’s Note: This is part one of an ongoing series covering this recent crisis and health advisories

    HAHIRA, Ga. — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp Saturday Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67/100 cfu E. coli, far higher than anything previously recorded there, and almost five times the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert level. There were still no warning signs, not at Knights Ferry, and not at State Line Boat Ramp, where Suzy Hall got 100 cfu/100 ml, when all our previous readings were zero (0).

    “It appears that Valdosta’s record-largest wastewater has caused a public health emergency in the Withlacoochee River and Valdosta is not even warning people about it at river access locations,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “Florida is being proactive; what is Valdosta doing? How about Lowndes Health? Lowndes County (didn’t cause this problem, but needs to help deal with it). GA-EPD? EPA? Statehouse and Congressional delegations? This report will go to all of them today.”

    The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Bacterial Monitoring manual says:….

  • 2019-12-25: staff reports (see WWALS Press Release), Albany Herald, December 24, 2019, (KPVI, Pocatello, Idaho, December 25, 2019), Environmental group says waterways contaminated after Valdosta wastewater leak,

    HAHIRA — At Knights Ferry Boat Ramp near, WWALS Watershed worker Suzy Hall tested 4,966.67/100 cfu E. coli, far higher than anything previously recorded there, and almost five times the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream alert level. There were still no warning signs, not at Knights Ferry, and not at State Line Boat Ramp, where Hall got 100 cfu/100 ml, where all previous readings had been zero.

    “It appears that Valdosta’s record-largest wastewater leak has caused a public health emergency in the Withlacoochee River, and Valdosta is not even warning people about it at river access locations,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said in a news release. “Florida is being proactive; what is Valdosta doing? How about Lowndes Health? Lowndes County (didn’t cause this problem, but needs to help deal with it). Georgia EPD? EPA? State House and Congressional delegations? This report will go to all of them today.”

    The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Bacterial Monitoring manual says: “E. coli counts (cfu/100ml) that exceed 235 cfu/100 ml are considered ‘high’ and should be closely monitored, but when counts exceed the 1,000 cfu/100 ml threshold, they warrant special action. A count of 235 cfu/100 ml correlates to 8 incidents of 1,000 people getting sick, but a count of 1,000 cfu/100 ml correlates to about 14 incidents of 1,000 people getting sick.”

    Officials with the WWALS Watershed group say it’s not clear how many people getting sick would correlate to 4,966.67/100, but more than 14, and any is too many.

    “Thanks to all who have already donated, we are ordering more Petrifilm today,” WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said. “Looks like we’re going to need it. Nobody else appears to be testing at the Little River confluence, or at Spook Bridge, Knights Ferry, Nankin or State Line Boat Ramp.”

    The only Valdosta warning sign on any river remains the one at Troupville Boat Ramp on the Little River, upstream of the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee River.

    The public can help WWALS test water quality by donating to its WWALS water quality testing program. Each bacterial test costs $6 for Petrifilms alone. WWALS officials say they are spending about $40 a day on Petrifilms in the wake of the Valdosta spill.

  • 2019-12-24: staff reports (see WWALS Press release), Albany Herald, December 24, 2019, Watershed coalition demands action following Valdosta sewage spills,

    HAHIRA — Compelled by the severity of Valdosta’s record raw sewage spill and the expenses and stigma incurred nearby and downstream, Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS Watershed Coalition has sent a letter requesting 10 enforcement actions to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

    WWALS member Deanna Mericle of Hamilton County, Fla., summed up the content of the letter.

    “As a person living downstream on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, I feel (expletive deleted) upon by Valdosta over and over,” Mericle said.

    “I cannot drink the water from my well. I worry about the health of the river itself and the animals that live in it and drink from it. We in Florida were patient while Valdosta was improving their wastewater plant, which apparently was not adequate since we still have spills when it rains heavily.

    “But this time it was not a rain event. It was gross negligence. I am out of patience. I believe it is time for legal action.”

    The Suwannee Riverkeeper letter notes GA-EPD already has a legal action against Valdosta, a consent order.

    WWALS asks GA-EPD to use its enforcement power to require notification, water quality testing, education, and plans and procedures not only for preventing such spills but also for tracking them as they travel down our creeks and rivers and for remediation of effects on wells and reputation.

    “Valdosta says it does what GA-EPD tells it to do, so we’re asking GA-EPD to tell them,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said…..

  • 2019-12-10: staff reports (see WWALS PR), December 10, 2019, Groups speak out against proposed titanium mine,

    VALDOSTA — More than two dozen organizations — local, regional, statewide in Florida and Georgia, national, and international — have expressed opposition to the titanium mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge provides boating, birding, fishing and hunting nearby to the tune of more than $60 million a year and more than 700 jobs, making it the NWR of most economic benefit to Georgia and Florida. The Okefenokee Swamp is a unique ecological treasure, and is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers. The burden of proof is on the miners, and they have not met it.

    Interested individuals can still file a comment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If the Corps actually issues a permit, which they may in the next few weeks, anything filed can be used in any ensuing lawsuit.

    Exactly how many organizations oppose that strip mine is hard to say, since some, such as Waterkeepers Florida, represent others all over a state, and Waterkeeper Alliance has more than 350 member organizations worldwide. The Georgia Water Coalition put the Okefenokee Swamp on its 2019 Dirty Dozen worst threats to Georgia’s waters because of this proposed mine, and GWC has more than 250 partner organizations. Southwings volunteer pilots have flown several times over the mine site, around the Okefenokee Swamp, and down to where Twin Pines Minerals is already under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four titanium strip mines in north Florida. Citizens Against Phosphate Mines obtained that Florida Consent Order.

    Suwannee Riverkeeper, St. Marys Earthkeepers, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Georgia River Network, Georgia Conservancy, Environment Georgia, One Hundred Miles, Glynn Environmental Coalition, Wayne Morgan Artistry, St. Marys Riverkeeper, Satilla Riverkeeper, Flint Riverkeeper, Savannah Riverkeeper, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Waterkeepers Florida, Our Santa Fe River, Dogwood Alliance, Georgia Women and those who stand with us, Friends of Georgia State Parks, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Refuge Association, The Nature Conservancey, The Wilderness Society, Wilderness Watch, Waterkeeper Alliance, Georgia Water Coalition, Citizens Against Phosphate Mines, and Southwings have all been invaluable.

    Plus both U.S. EPA and Georgia EPD filed comments saying the miners’ application was missing much key information. GA-EPD even explicitly cited Suwannee Riverkeeper’s comments. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the Okefenokee NWR, filed comments about the ecological and economic value of the Swamp and the application’s lack of information.

    For much more information, see:

  • 2020-12-05: James Call, Tallahassee Democrat, December 5, 2019, Roads to ruin or prosperity? Environmentalists want to block Florida toll-road projects,

    “It will be a problem. We will have more trees cleared and there will be more runoff with things getting into the springs and river,” said John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper, of the road that would travel through Taylor County at the Big Bend and into Jefferson County.

  • 2019-12-02: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 2 December 2019, Valdosta City Council to consider supporting Troupeville[sic] River Camp,

    “It’ll encourage people to use the rivers more, people who actually care about the rivers who will help to take care of them,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “It’s a wild area, right next to the biggest city in the Suwannee River Basin. We don’t have an ocean here, we don’t have mountains, but we do have rivers. This is right at the confluence of the two rivers, right next to the biggest city.”

    [at the confluence of the two rivers]
    at the confluence of the two rivers

  • 2019-09-19: Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 19 September 2019, Agencies: Application for mining near Okefenokee incomplete,

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division made their written comments in response to a Clean Water Act permit application the company filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah….

    In its comment, the Georgia EPD concurred with EPA, saying that the documentation for this project has “not yet been prepared, completed and distributed.” The permit application cites a series of hydrogeologic reports that are not yet completed.

    “Understanding that groundwater hydrologic effects associated with the Twin Pines project have been a central concern expressed by federal resource/regulatory agencies, NGOs (e.g. the Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network), and the public at large, we respectfully submit that the (Clean Water Act) permit application as submitted thus far is not complete since it lacks full information and findings regarding hydrogeologic factors on site and post-project effects to hydrogeology/groundwater,” states the EPD’s Sept. 12 comment from its wetlands manager. It concludes it is “inappropriate and premature” to close the comment window.

  • 2019-09-13: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 September 2019, Mining proposal near Okefenokee draws more than 20K comments from public (WWALS blog post),

    The Suwannee Riverkeeper, on Thursday, sent 22 pages of questions to the Corps and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection asking the agency to deny the permit. The Riverkeeper joined the SELC and other organizations and individuals in asking the Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, the highest level of analysis available when a proposed federal action may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.

  • 2019-08-23: Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, Suwannee Riverkeeper Fights to Protect Okefenokee Swamp from Titanium Strip Mine

    Three times last week, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman helped gather locals and organizations across Georgia, north Florida, and beyond to voice concerns about a proposed strip mine alongside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Georgia, home to the Okefenokee Swamp.

    Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM), an Alabama-based mining company, applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers in Southern Georgia. The Suwannee flows south through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, and the St. Marys becomes the border between Georgia and Florida on its way to the Atlantic.

    John was quoted in the first news story about the mine, by Emily Jones of Georgia Public Broadcasting on July 15, “The most obvious thing that we really need is a real environmental impact statement. All we have so far is, ‘this is what the applicant said.’”

    Signs in Folkston against the mine
    John S. Quarterman, before 2019-08-13 TPM meeting. L-r: Mark Lyons of Citizens Against Phosphate Mining, Alice Keyes of One Hundred Miles, Hilda Gilchrist of Our Santa Fe River (OSFR), Jim Tatum of OSFR and WWALS, Rena Peck Stricker of Georgia River Network, Mike Roth and Kristin Rubin of OSFR and WWALS, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, Merillee Malwitz-Jipson of OSFR and WWALS.

  • 2019-08-23: Scott James, Scott James Radio, 23 August 2019, Songwriting Contest on Scott James radio show 2019-08-23
  • 2019-08-21: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 21 August 2019, Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge,

    “Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there’s mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”

  • 2019-08-15: Emily Jones, GPB, 15 August 2019, Charlton County Backs Proposed Mining Near Okefenokee,

    In a letter sent before the county commission meeting, Suwan[n]ee Riverkeeper John Quarterman called the commission’s vote “premature.”

    “While I understand that everyone wants jobs, I respectfully submit that far too many things are still unknown,” Quarterman wrote.

    Public comments at the meeting, following the vote, echoed that sentiment.

    Photo: EMILY JONES, GPB, Charlton County Commission votes to support mining near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge
    Charlton County Commission votes to support mining near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge

  • 2019-08-13: John S. Quarterman, Charlton County Herald, 13 August 2019, Swamp more important than miners under Consent Order in Florida

    [Suwannee Riverkeeper op-ed 2019-08-13]
    Suwannee Riverkeeper op-ed 2019-08-13

  • 2019-08-11: Albany Herald, 11 August, 2019, Watershed coalition to host ‘Boomerang’ paddle event (WWALS blog post)
  • 2019-07-15: Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Radio News), 15 July 2019, Mining Proposed Near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
    (WWALS blog post: GPB on mining proposal near Okefenokee NWR 2019-07-15),

    But Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman said the actual impact could be greater.

    “The most obvious thing that we really need is a real environmental impact statement,” Quarterman said. “All we have so far is, ‘this is what the applicant said.’”

    Quarterman was concerned about runoff from the mining, wildlife habitats, and the effects on waterflow underground.

  • 2019-07-21: Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, page 4A, July 24, 2019, and online July 21: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium (WWALS blog post updated for more recent developments: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium in VDT 2019-07-23)

    “Gateway to the Okefenokee” says the sign as you exit I-75 southbound into Valdosta.

    Twin Pines Minerals promises jobs, taxes, and low impact. Yet just across the state line in Florida, miners made all those same promises, and nobody can name any local people employed.

    The miners have told multiple organizations they want to ship the ore to Starke, Florida, for processing. That’s in Bradford County, between the New River and the Santa Fe River, which flows into the Suwannee River.

    During Hurricane Irma, the only pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida (other than truck wrecks) were three from Chemours mines on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford Counties.

    Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, Georgia, where downhill is either the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or the St. Mary’s River? That river is a favorite local recreational resort. The Refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs.

    We need a real Environmental Impact Statement before we let miners risk the Suwannee River headwaters in the Okefenokee Swamp, or its tributaries the New or Santa Fe Rivers.

  • 2019-07-02: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 2 July 2019, Moody jet hits bird, drops 3 dummy bombs over N. Florida (WWALS blog post; see also Fox News,, and numerous other venues),

    What else is in it? What are the pyrotechnics? What kind of environmental damage could it cause? We don’t really know. We’d like to know.

    [Doesn't encourage people to get on the rivers]
    Doesn’t encourage people to get on the rivers

    I certainly wouldn’t tell anybody to stay off the river, but it doesn’t encourage people to get on the river, so it’s a problem from that point of view.

  • 2019-06-21: Ri’Shawn Bassette, WALB, 21 June 2019, Valdosta sees manhole sewage overflow (WWALS blog post),

    Riverkeeper John Quarterman said that a member of his staff was near the area when they noticed the spill and the smell.

    [Ashley Street]
    Ashley Street

    Quarterman shared that this serves as a reminder as to why it’s important to keep waste out of our water systems.


    “Because if they don’t, this kind of thing can happen. Nobody wants sewage running across the ma[i]n drag and maybe getting into the nearby street holes [storm drains]. [we hope] It didn’t with that one,” said Quarterman.

  • 2019-06-13: Valdosta Daily Times, June 13, 2019, Quarterman to canoe Paddle Georgia.
  • 2019-04-25: Valdosta Daily Times, Georgia Beer sponsors songwriting contest,

    VALDOSTA — The first brewery in the Suwannee River Basin is the top-level sponsor of the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.

    When the finalists compete for the judges and music lovers at The Salty Snapper on Aug. 24, at the top of the sponsor banner will be Georgia Beer Company, organizers said.

    The maker of brews, such as Cypress Knee – Single Hop Mosaic, understands clean water is essential to every beer, organizers said. So Georgia Beer Company, as the Aria level sponsor, supports Suwannee Riverkeeper for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.

    [Sponsor package]
    Left to right: Bartender, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman receiving sponsor merchandise and check from Jack “J. Ryce Martin” and Chris Jones, founders of Georgia Beer Co.

    “When I was a reporter in Madison, Fla., I wrote about Valdosta sewage frequently,” said Chris Jones, a Georgia Beer Company co-founder. “Unfortunately, that is still a story. We support Suwannee Riverkeeper to help stop that problem, and to clean up other things getting into our rivers.”

    See the WWALS PR of 2019-04-22 for the rest.

  • 2019-05-07: River journey registration available.
  • 2019-04-22: Valdosta Today, 2nd Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest,
    Do you care about keeping our local water and rivers clean?

    The Second Annual Suwanee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest is a project created by WWALS Watershed Coalition. It will be held Saturday, August 24, 2019 from 1-5 p.m. at the Salty Snapper located at 1405 Gornto Road, Valdosta to help you do both.

    You must be present to win.

    You do not have to sing, but you do have to be onstage with your song’s performance, rattling tambourine – or whatever! All finalists must arrive by 11 a.m. for sound check.

    The Contest Committee will choose half a dozen finalists according to criteria such as that they’re really about some of our waters in the Suwannee River Basin. Finalists will be announced Saturday, August 10, 2019.

    Radio personality Chris Beckham will be the Master of Ceremonies, as musicians play, the finalists perform, three judges deliberate, we all talk about outings and advocacy, and, finally, the winners will be announced. Then the winners play some more.

    New this year: there will be one or more youth winners under 18-years-old.

    The first prize is $300. Prizes of $50 each will go to one winner from within the Suwannee River Basin, and one from without. There will be one winner per musical genre.

    There will be a silent auction, a kayak raffle, and a cash bar, and the snacks are included. At 4 PM you can order from the Salty Snapper menu as well, if you like.

    The song submission deadline is Friday, July 12, 2019. The entry form is online, for your song lyrics and information about the song and to introduce you if you become a finalist. Every musical genre is welcome, and anything from spoken word or a capella to bands may play. You can send your song as an electronic file or on a USB stick or CD.

    “Music and the arts lead the band of advocacy and awareness,” said contest committee Chair Scotti Jay. “And a beer with the music sure can help.”

    Tickets are $10 online or $12 at the door. Or $150 per eight-seat VIP table right in front of the stage. Everything about the contest is online here:

    Sponsoring the contest is a great opportunity for businesses and individuals to get their name in publicity about the Contest, from radio and TV and newspaper interviews and public interest spots, to a banner to hang at your place of business, to a banner at the event and a mention in the program. Help support clean water advocacy and get more people to see your business.

    Local Georgia Beer Company is one of the lead sponsors for the event.

    “When I was a reporter in Madison, Florida, I wrote about Valdosta sewage frequently,” said Georgia Beer Co. co-founder Chris Jones. “Unfortunately, that is still a story. We support Suwannee Riverkeeper to help stop that problem, and to clean up other things getting into our rivers.”

    “I’m thrilled for this support of our water quality testing program by Georgia Beer Company,” said WWALS lead tester Sara Jay. “We can buy more testing materials and do more tests!”

    “My grandfather used to run the Valdosta waterworks in the historic building that now houses Georgia Beer Company,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman. “It’s great that Chris and Jack know clean water is just as important now as it was back then.”

    Founded in June 2012, WWALS has board members from multiple counties in south Georgia and north Florida, and members from all over the Suwannee River Basin and from farther away. Since December 2016, 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.

  • 2019-04-04 (WWALS blog post): Emma Wheeler, WCTV Eyewitness News, State: Gas company failures led up to Homerville explosion,

    [Empty lot]
    WCTV’s Emma Wheeler reporting from the empty lot where Coffee Corner used to be in Homverville, GA

    The Public Service Commission is proposing a civil penalty of $2.3 million against Atlanta Gas Light for the violations.

    Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman lives near the start of the pipeline. He said he was horrified by the report, and fears that this could happen anywhere along its path.


    “Oh yeah, pipeline leaks. I call them in, they come and fix them and then it leaks again,” Quarterman said. “They’re dangerous, it’s high pressure explosive gas, as every sign they post says.”

    Quarterman hopes this report, and the multi-million dollar fine, will lead to more accountability and regulation for natural gas companies.

    For more about that, see WWALS blog post.

  • 2019-03-16: Amanda M. Usher, Valdosta Daily Times, 14 March 2019, Suwannee Democrat, 16 March 2019, Row, Row Your Boat: Residents to paddle Withlacoochee, Suwannee: Residents to paddle Withlacoochee, Suwannee (see also WWALS PR),

    VALDOSTA, Ga. — For the first time in its 15-year history, Paddle Georgia will cross state lines into Florida from Valdosta.

    Paddle Georgia is an annual canoe and kayak journey down state rivers hosted by Georgia River Network, said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator.

    The 92-mile trip, taking place June 15-21, will begin at the Withlacoochee River in Valdosta and will meet the Suwannee River near Mayo, Fla.

    Organizers will have a campsite at Grassy Pond Recreation Area from June 14-18.

    “(Paddle Georgia) is considered the largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure in the country,” Cook said. “We have each year between 300-450 people participating.”

    Members paddled the Withlacoochee last August, and Cook said they “fell in love with it” adding the river is “beautiful.”

    About 225 people have already registered for this year’s trip, but Cook said registrants are still being accepted.

    Participants can choose to paddle the entire week. They can choose to take advantage of the Paddle Lite option and journey the first two days or last two days.

    Adult registration is $425, $230 for youth ages 8-17 and $30 for children age 7 and younger for the week-long trip.

    Paddle Lite adult registration is $120, and youth registration is $70.

    Proceeds will be given to the Georgia River Network and the Suwannee Riverkeeper to help protect the Withlacoochee, Cook said.

  • 2019-03-13: Video: WWALS E.D. Gretchen Quarterman on Charlie Walker Radio 2019-03-13,

    In eight minutes she talked about the BIG Little River Paddle Race, the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, on the air with Charlie Walker, KIX 99.5 Country Radio, plus Paddle Georgia, and all the other events and outings.

    BIG Little River Paddle Race

    “That’s our signature event,” said WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman, about the Seventh Annual BIG Little River Paddle Race.

    On the Air, Gretchen Quarterman

  • 2019-03-07: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 7 March 2019, WALB TV March 8, 2019, Task force looks to curb Valdosta sewage spills (WWALS blog post),

    Volunteers with WWALS Watershed Coalition test waters in Valdosta, but organizers said that isn’t enough.

    “We hope it helps spur some action from the states. While we’re doing volunteer water quality testing program, we have someone testing here every week, a tiny little volunteer organization trying to cover 10,000 [square] miles of the Suwannee River Basin, it seems like that states could do it quicker, faster and probably more thoroughly,” said John Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper.

    WWALS testing, Testing

    Organizers hope that with more people involved, the more likely change is going to happen.

    Last month [Actually December 20, 2018], the Georgia Environmental Protection Division began publishing all reported sewage spills across the state on a daily basis, something WWALS has been pushing for.

  • 2019-02-22: Video: BIG Little River Paddle Race, Paddle Georgia, Songwriting Contest, coal ash, trust funds, and wastewater, on Scott James Radio 2019-02-22,

    On WWALS TV radio Scott James and Valdosta Airport Executive Director James Galloway and I discussed alligators, karst limestone, and water levels on the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers….

    WWALS banner, Scott James

    About outings, we discussed:

    • BIG Little River Paddle Race Saturday, April 27, 2019, about 3 miles starting at Red Roberts landing. You can race or you can just paddle. Watch out for overhanging branches.

      Paddles, Scott James

    • Paddle Georgia, June 15-21, 2019, for the first time ever from Georgia into another state, on our Withlacoochee River from Troupville Boat Ramp. Yes, Scott James, or you, can join for a day. I invited him to broadcast from the river on the Suwannee Riverkeeper Aircraft Carrier. He said he might.
    • and the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, Saturday, August 24, 2019. And our winner from last year, Laura D’Alisera, will play June 21st at the Final Feast of Paddle Georgia, which WWALS is also catering via the Salty Snapper.

    As a 501(c)(3) WWALS can’t support or oppose any specific candidates for election, but we can say Valdosta wastewater will be an issue in the mayoral election.

    Finally, thank you, Langdale Company for the key to Old Quitman Highway so we can take out below Spook Bridge on Paddle Georgia.

  • 2019-02-15: Jamie Wachter, Valdosta Daily Times, 2019-02-15, Ongoing Valdosta sewage spills concern Fla. neighbors and Suwannee Democrat 2019-02-18, also Jim Tatum, OSFR, 2019-02-14, Marathon Meeting at SRWMD (WWALS blog post),

    Jim McBrayer at SRWMD

    Moving to the area three years ago, Jim McBrayer had his well near the Suwannee River in Hamilton County tested.

    It came back positive for E. coli, leading McBrayer to have a water infiltration system installed.

    [Movie: Spills and Testing --John S. Quarterman, WWALS (211M)]
    Movie: Spills and Testing –John S. Quarterman, WWALS (211M); see WWALS video.

    John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper and president of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, said while other cities do have spills, Valdosta had more spill locations in December than the rest of the state of Georgia combined, according to data from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

    “Valdosta, being the largest city in the entire Suwannee River basin by far, it also has the largest responsibility to fix its problems,” Quarterman said.

  • 2019-02-13: Albany Herald, WWALS Watershed plans summer paddle: Weeklong water adventure will start on Savannah [sic] River, move into Florida,

    HAHIRA — From the next-to-the-largest Suwannee River Basin city — Valdosta — to between some of the smallest — Mayo and Luraville — Paddle Georgia will bring 300 paddlers this summer to venture for the first time across the state line from Georgia to Florida on the Little, Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers, June 15-21….

    See WWALS press release for more information.

  • 2019-01-31: John S. Quarterman: Sewage spills in Georgia affecting Suwannee River basin, Gainesville Sun, 2019-01-31, also Lake City Reporter and Columbia County Observer 2019-01-30, and Valdosta Daily Times, 2019-02-01 (WWALS blog post),

    A December upsurge of raw sewage spills from the city of Valdosta, Georgia, has a dozen downstream counties organized into a task force, demanding action from Florida state legislators. But what action?

    I recommend first getting a grip on the extent of the problem, keeping that picture up to date and then funding fixes.

    Photo: John S. Quarterman of Sara Jay, Water Temperature, TGroupville Boat Ramp, Little River, 2019-01-06

    Valdosta spilled not just twice, but two dozen times in December, totaling more than 6 million gallons of raw sewage. Spills also happened in Tifton, Quitman and Lowndes County, Georgia.

    We know this because….

  • 2019-01-18: Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 18 January 2018, Moody neighbor wants water tested (WWALS blog post),

    Those firefighting chemicals that leaked from Moody Air Force Base are on the front page of the Valdosta Daily Times today:

    Moody recommends private well owners contact their county representatives for information on testing personal wells.

    Paige Dukes, Lowndes County clerk and public information officer, said this is an opportunity for county residents such as Tann to have their water tested. Not only for PFAS but for any other contaminants that might be there.

    Indeed, and Lowndes County operates the Moody AFB wastewater treatment plant that spilled into Beatty Branch and Cat Creek. So it’s an opportunity for Lowndes County to help organize testing for these per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), because testing for them isn’t nearly as simple or inexpensive as testing for other contaminants.

    Reporter and photographer at Beatty Branch, 2019-01-07, VDT
    Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, nearby resident Debra Tann, VDT reporter Thomas Lynn and photographer Derrek Vaughn, at Beatty Branch, January 7, 2019. Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS.

    Debra Tann and I were back at Beatty Branch on January 7, 2019, this time with the VDT, about the firefighting chemical issue that was in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the first week of January. This time it was for local reporters. Moody neighbor wants water tested, Thomas Lynn, Valdosta Daily Times, 18 January 2018,

    Front Page, VDT
    Debra Tann and John Quarterman look at the site where water runs off from Moody Air Force Base. Photo: Derrek Vaughn, The Valdosta Daily Times.

    VALDOSTA — When Debra Tann learned Moody Air Force Base had been washing dangerous chemicals down the drain for more than 40 years, she was understandably concerned.

    The Lowndes County resident has lived less than two miles from the base for 24 years and wants to know if her water is safe.

    In May 2018, Moody released a report stating the base’s water was deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, but Tann wanted to know if residents living near the base shared the same diagnosis.

    “I want residents near the base to be equally confident their water is not hazardous,” Tann said. “Residents need to know if their water is contaminated or not.”

    Fears of water contamination, both inside and outside of Moody, began after the release of a study conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016.

  • 2019-01-03: Meris Lutz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Contaminated groundwater, a toxic legacy of Georgia’s air bases, 3 January 2019, (WWALS blog post), and AP, Air Force Times,, Valdosta Today, 5 January 2019,

    “Everything in this area depends on groundwater,” said John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper in Lowndes County, where Moody is located. “I’m not saying that Moody necessarily did make enough contamination to be a problem, but I can’t tell from this report, and I don’t think it’s our responsibility to determine that they didn’t.”

    John S. Quarterman and Debra Tann at Beatty Branch, downstream from Moody AFB
    Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman and Lowndes County resident Debra Tann at Beatty Branch near Moody Air Force Base, which was contaminated by a special firefighting foam used by the military. Tann’s well is less than a mile from the base, and she and Quarterman expressed concern about the pollution of groundwater by the Air Force. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution