Panama City officials address Florida DEP sewer concerns

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Sewage issues have been a problem within the city of Panama City for years, and are now under the attention of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

On March 13th, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a proposed consent order to the city of Panama City for multiple violations and cites 35 instances of sanitary sewer overflows in the past three years. 

“We have a significant issue and we knew this before the storm going into it, but it has only been much more exacerbated since the storm,” said Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen. 

The city is being required by the order to implement a number of fixes to resolve these issues, and to pay FDEP about $145,000 in civil penalties or to carry out a larger In-Kind project. Due to COVID-19, the department has given the city until the 30th of April to respond. 

“We are going to partner with DEP and give them a proposal back as to what we think is a realistic plan and we will leave it to DEP to determine what they do to assess any penalties,” McQueen said. 

McQueen says this is all part of a bigger plan.

“The city is absolutely committed to not only doing these four areas that were noted, but quite honestly, as a complete overhaul of our entire sanitary sewer system,” McQueen said.  

Moving forward,the city will work with their consultant, Mott McDonald, to develop a long term plan. 

“There is no one source for all of the funding,” McQueen said. “We’ve got to cobble together everything we can do, not only CBGDR money, not only hazardous mitigation money, we’ve got the state revolving fund we can tap into, we have our own funds we need to tap into.” 

Although plans for fixing the system will take years, McQueen says he knows the city has the ability.  

“I am absolutely confident we can overcome all of this and that we can move forward and that we can rebuild the city to make it the premier city in the Panhandle of Florida,” McQueen said.

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