MountainTrue arranging new water quality tests in Lake Nottely, E. coli update

Featured Stories, News

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – MountainTrue Western Regional Director Callie Moore presented a Union County water quality update and introduced a sampling plan to test for metals and other materials in Lake Nottely.

The proposed testing does not include PFAS because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests only found trace amounts of PFAS in the lake. In other words, the tests determined that there wasn’t enough PFAS in the water to impact the overall quality. 

MountainTrue relies on science to support the reasoning behind a decision. When it comes to leachate, legally, the city of Blairsville and The Water Authority are within the parameters set by the EPA.

“We need to have a reason, not just that there’s hazardous stuff in there. There’s hazardous stuff already in our waters. These PFAS, these microplastics, they’re everywhere,” added Moore. “We don’t have the proof to be able to say that that landfill water should stop because of PFAS.”

However, MountainTrue Co-Directors have decided to conduct some sampling, and they will create a list of materials for testing.

They’ve been consulting with leachate processing experts to monitor the water accurately.

E. coli Butternut Creek 

Moore predominately wanted to clear up the E. coli concerns that many have expressed to her. MountainTrue has sampled streams, rivers, and lakes around the Hiawassee River Basin area for twenty years, including Butternut Creek.

“Different people at different times have sent different correspondence and put different things in the paper, none of which are accurate, when it comes to the Butternut Creek Watershed,” stated Moore.

MountainTrue employees sample five areas in the Butternut Creek Watershed – Headwaters, Mountain Building Supply, Farmers’ Market, golf course, and Meeks Park. The wastewater treatment plant is approximately halfway between the golf course site and Meeks Park.

Map of watershed

Additionally, a tributary watershed drains into Butternut Creek before the Meeks Park testing site.

Not all sites have the same amount of sampling data as Meeks Park because it’s the oldest testing site. As of July 28, 2020, MountainTrue samples Meeks Park every week.

The golf course site was only monitored intensively in 2016 and 2020. In 2019, the Headwaters site launched. An intern sampled Mountain Building Supply only in 2016. MountainTrue doesn’t always have enough volunteers to monitor all sites. However, with the recent interest in leachate and E.coli, more volunteers have stepped up to test the water.

Three E. coli graphs from Farmers Market, golf course, and Meeks Park.

“When you start to make conclusions about the golf course site verses the Meeks Park site, you can’t really compare them the same because there’s a gap between 2017 and 2018,” said Moore.

She presented three graphs concerning E. coli data from the Farmers’ Market, the golf course, and Meeks Park. The Farmers’ Market and the golf course are upstream from the water treatment plant, and each exhibits peaks near 5,000 colony forming units per 100 milliliters. However, the top of the graph on the Meeks Park map is 2,500 colony forming units per 100 milliliters.

“The Meeks Park site is the cleanest of the three featured in the data. Does that mean that it’s clean? No, it’s not clean,” explained Moore. “We saw a peak at the Meeks Park site, and people were concerned, and we wanted to have current data.”

Previously, the most intensive data from Meeks Park was from 2016, which was during a drought year. The 2016 and 2020 data indicates a significant change in E. coli data between those two years. Moore added that changes to the tributary watershed have contributed to the increase.

 

A state agency determines if a site is safe for swimming by gathering five samples within 30 days, then determining the geometric mean. Currently, Butternut Creek at the Farmers’ Market, golf course, and Meeks Park (Colwell Fields) are significantly over the EPA recommended E. coli levels for swimming, even infrequent swimming.

Geometric Mean for Butternut Creek

  • Farmers’ Market – 457.7
  • Golf Course – 3016.0
  • Meeks Park (Colwell Fields) – 867.0

Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) lists infrequent swimming at <576 CFU/100mL and designated swimming at <235 CFU/100mL. The Nottely River/Lake test site at Meeks Park II passes the designated swimming E. coli level with a geometric mean of 180.6.

E. coli data from this 2020.

“Butternut Creek is impaired. It’s on the Stage Three of impaired waters, and it has been ever since I know of, definitely as far back as 2012,” Moore added. “The reasons why are livestock having access to streams, leaking septic systems, and in some cases, woods.”

During a forestland E. coli monitoring, they found high levels of bacteria because of the high concentration of wildlife in some regions of the watershed.

The non-point source pollutions are a problem for the community, Butternut Creek, and even the upstream of Nottely River.

MountainTrue plans to create a new plan for the Butternut Creek Watershed and use grant funding to overcome these issues.

“The wastewater treatment plant has not ever contributed to the E. coli problem at Meeks Park. The E. coli problem has always been higher than that. Even, Headwaters site since we started monitoring it in 2019, most of the time, it’s over the EPA recommended levels already before it gets to the highway.”

Moore added that the wastewater treatment plant is efficient when processing traditional pollutants, not the ones found in leachate.

Free COVID-19 Testing in North GA Memorial Day Weekend

Health, Lifestyle

COVID-19 testing available to all Georgians

Press Release
testing

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has reached its goal of testing 100,000 individuals in 10 days. More than 108,000 tests were processed since Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, set the DPH goal last week.

“This is an important benchmark for Georgia as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state,” said Toomey. “Increased testing is critical to understanding where there are hotspots of infection and how best to mitigate them.”

Effective immediately, testing is available to all Georgians who request it, whether they have symptoms or not. There are more than 65 specimen point of collection sites (SPOC) throughout the state, with an additional 30 mobile SPOCs –  locations and hours vary daily.

Individuals wanting to be tested can contact any Georgia public health department to schedule an appointment at a SPOC location convenient to them. Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage at

https://dph.georgia.gov/.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook.

DPH Release – Expanded Testing For COVID-19 In Georgia

Featured, Health

Revised Testing Criteria and Increased Number of Test Sites

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is increasing the number of specimen
collection sites statewide for COVID-19 testing, and is revising the current testing criteria to
accommodate more testing of Georgia residents.

Effective immediately, all symptomatic individuals will be eligible for COVID-19 testing. Health
care workers, first responders, law enforcement and long-term care facility residents and staff will
still be prioritized for testing regardless of whether they are or are not symptomatic.
Referrals are still required, however, there are now two ways to be referred to a DPH specimen
collection site:

Local Health Department –
Individuals who meet COVID-19 testing criteria may now be referred to DPH specimen collection
sites by contacting their local health department. They will be screened by appropriate health
department staff and referred to the closest, most convenient specimen collection site.

Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage, under COVID-19 in Georgia.

Health Care Provider Referral –
Health care providers and/or physicians can and should continue to refer patients for COVID-19
testing.

People should not arrive unannounced or without a scheduled appointment at a specimen
collection site, hospital, emergency room or other health care facility. Only individuals who have
been evaluated by public health or a health care provider and assigned a PUI # number will
be referred to these drive-thru sites.

Together we can stop further spread of COVID-19 in our state and save lives.

Stay home – the Governor has issued a shelter-in-place Executive Order that should be observed
by all residents and visitors.

Practice social distancing – keep at least 6 feet between yourself and other people.

Wash your hands – use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based
hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) if soap and water aren’t readily available.
Wear a mask – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of face
masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially where socials distancing is difficult to
maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.), and especially in areas of significant community-
based transmission.

For more information about COVID-19 Click here or
Click Here.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and
@GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook.

Georgia DPH adjusts COVID-19 models to include asymptomatic transmission

News, Police & Government, State & National
asymptomatic

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – As of April 1, Georgia had 4,748 cases and 20,328 completed COVID-19 tests, but Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has only tested symptomatic and high-risk patients. As a result, some cases have gone undiagnosed across Georgia.

Currently, DPH is following CDC guidelines, which still states online that not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Most people who contract the virus will recover and can care for themselves at home. CDC gave healthcare workers four priority categories to help decide who receives tests.

Asymptomatic individuals were ranked last, and those exhibiting mild symptoms or subjected to potential community spread should only be tested if resources are available.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy went on record about the issue.

“Some people take care of themselves at home and never go to a doctor, especially those who have minor symptoms,” he explained. Murphy added that White County first responders have encountered a dozen or more patients with coronavirus symptoms in the last two weeks.

DPH guidance for healthcare facilities when it comes to testing lower priority potential cases is as follows:

Patients with mild illness who do not require medical care or who are not a DIRECT contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case (meaning the person has NOT been within 6 feet of a confirmed case for greater than 10 minutes, will not meet criteria to be tested at GPHL but can be tested at commercial labs—see below:

These patients should self-isolate at home until symptoms resolve. If respiratory symptoms worsen, they may need to be re-evaluated. Guidance for safe home care can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-homecare.html.

If you want to test these patients for COVID-19, commercial laboratory testing is the best option. Commercial laboratories are expected to conduct a substantial number of COVID-19 tests going forward. Currently, the primary source of testing is LabCorp, but we expect other laboratories will be testing in the near future as well, including Quest and ARUP. Neither LabCorp nor Quest will collect specimens at their facilities. Providers should contact LabCorp or Quest regarding supplies needed for testing.

DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey addressed that asymptomatic individuals in Georgia aren’t being tested but could be transmitting the virus to numerous Georgians. The state and DPH now believe the time is now appropriate to take “very aggressive measures.”

“We have not been testing everybody. We have only been testing those who have symptoms and those who are the most ill. And now, we recognize a game-changer, in how our strategy to fight COVID has unfolded. We realize now that individuals may be spreading the virus and not even realize they have an infection. As many as 1 in 4 people with coronavirus don’t realize they have the infection because they have no symptoms whatsoever,” explained Toomey.

“Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before they see signs,” remarked Gov. Brian Kemp. “Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad.”

Kemp is expected to sign a shelter in place order on Thursday, April 2 to prevent people from ignoring self-quarantine recommendations. The details on the order are yet to be released.

Toomey further voiced that they knew asymptomatic community spread was possible due to the cruise ship cases. As of March 4, the CDC website also stated that asymptomatic spread is possible, but not as common as among individuals who are visibly sick.

Until the past 24-hours, all the DPH models relied on data solely from patients with symptoms.

“I think it’s a combination of recognizing not only that there are probably a large number of people out there who are infected who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models, but also seeing the community transmission that we’re seeing and now is the time to stop that transmission before the hospitals are overrun,” said Toomey.

How can Georgians prevent exposure/slow the spread?

Follow the CDC guidelines:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds – wash often
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Avoid social contact and stay home
  • Social distance if in public – stay six feet apart from each other
  • Avoid touching the face – mouth, nose, eyes
  • If sick, stay home
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it away
  • Wear a facemask if sick

By following these guidelines and Kemp’s shelter-in-place order, Georgian’s should be able to flatten the curve and hopefully protect themselves and loved ones.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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