PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Watson Bayou has been contaminated with over 360 thousand gallons of raw sewage, the equivalent to 4,500 bathtubs of untreated waste.
“Folks should avoid swimming in Watson Bayou until further notice,” said Joe Scully, an Environmental Supervisor with the Florida Department of Health. “If they were to ingest the water they could wind up with gastrointestinal illness, symptoms very similar to food poisoning.”
The Panama City Department of Public Works said Monday the situation is now under control.
According to a report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the leak started in May, as storm debris removal caused a break in the sewer line.
“It didn’t take long once we found it to realize it was leaking,” said Johnny Sims, the City of Panama City Public Works Director. “How long it had been leaking was a mystery at the very beginning.”
Since May, it slowly spilled out, first caught in July, but presumably fixed; until August 8th, when another leak was detected.
“This was old vitrified clay pipe that been probably in the earth for many years,” said Sims.
City Officials say the city has inspected the rest of the line to check for more breaks; none have been found.
Now, they’re looking to update the lines to a stronger material.
“We’re going back with cast-iron pipe with lock joints, that will further secure the joints for breakage and should be a lot better system for our future,” said Sims.
The Department of Environmental Protection says they are evaluating the incidents further to determine if any additional enforcement is needed.
Power lime disinfectant has been dispersed in Watson Bayou to help decontaminate the water.
As of now, the water is not safe for human contact.