Stay out of Suwannee River, state agency again warns

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8:43 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8:43 a.m.

Residents and recreationalists along the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers are urged to avoid contact with the river water because of possible contamination from city of Valdosta’s sewage treatment plant, according to a Florida Department of Health press release.

The agency on Thursday issued an advisory to residents in the counties surrounding the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers — Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison and Suwannee counties.

The Valdosta utility department has located a sanitary sewer overflow that has spilled into the northern Withlacoochee. The Withlacoochee flows south and empties into the Suwannee River.

This is the second time in two months that state health officials have had to warn residents of North Central Florida to avoid contact with the water flowing in the Suwannee — and both instances involve sewage contamination involving a spill in Valdosta.

In early March, the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant in Valdosta overflowed into the Withlacoochee, state officials said at the time.

As for the current situation, state officials say that, until further information is known regarding possible contamination of the rivers, people are urged to avoid contact with water from either river.

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 elderly, as well as people with depressed immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to disease so every precaution should be taken to avoid the river water.

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