Panama City officials address storm water and sewage system concerns

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–Commissions for both Bay County and Panama City declared states of emergency Tuesday evening because of Hurricane Sally. In Panama City, there are major concerns about roads, storm water run-off, and the sewage system. Some concerns are immediate while others are long-term issues. The most pressing problems could occur if Sally causes wide-spread power outages.

Panama City’s sewage system depends on lift stations scattered throughout the city. The lift stations pump water and sewage to the city’s main wastewater treatment plants. And right now, they’re working overtime.

“We do have much more water that is flowing through the sewer system. Our pumps are working at maximum capacity. My concern is whether or not they will burn-out because they’re non-stop operational,” said Mark McQueen, Panama City’s City Manager.

Tuesday evening McQueen asked for and received, permission to bring-in additional equipment to handle any short-term sewage problems.

“Currently we have two stand-by vac trucks and we’ll use those vac trucks to suck out any of the sewage that is being built-up in the lift stations. We also have by-pass pumps set-up ready to deploy to also move sewage on down the line through that lift-station,” said McQueen.

Hurricane Sally is just the latest threat to city infrastructure that is old and overloaded.

“We’ve got this orange pipe that was put in many, many years ago. It was state-of-the-art back in the teens and ’20s which we’ve got in Millville and St. Andrews. And there’s a lot of really old, old cast iron,” said Greg Brudnicki, Panama City’s Mayor.

Hurricane Michael exposed all of the weaknesses two years ago. But city officials say it also provided opportunities to upgrade.

“Because of the storm, we’re gonna be availed to a lot of money from FEMA,” said Brudnicki.

Along with federal aid, the city also has some grants and no-interest loans from the state. Brudnicki believes the city could complete the all of the work in the next 8-to-10 years.

But, again, the immediate concern this week is submerged roadways and possible sewage back-ups. If you have any utility issues within the Panama City city limits, call the Public Works Assistance department at 850-872-3015.

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