The Utilities Department provides services to residences and businesses in the community for three different divisions, Utility Engineering, Water and Wastewater Utilities.
WATER & WASTEWATER UTILITIES DIVISION
The City water and wastewater system extends well beyond the City limits. The City also provide services to homes and businesses in the unincorporated area of Bay County shown below. In fact, most of the City water and wastewater piping systems are located outside of the City limits. The City provides these services under a franchise agreement with Bay County.
The City’s Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) Plant receives and treats wastewater collected from Panama City Beach and the surrounding unincorporated Bay County service area. Due to the seasonal influx of tourists within the City’s service area, flow to the Plant can vary significantly during a year. On an average day in July, more than 9 million gallons of raw sewage flow into the AWT Plant on North Gulf Boulevard. This sewage is then put through an extensive biological treatment process at the Plant to produce treated water that meets or exceeds state and federal regulations, including National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System standards (NPDES). The City personnel monitor the treatment process 24 hours a day to ensure the cleanest water is produced. Historically, the AWT Plant’s discharge effluent levels have remained well below established requirements.
A significant portion of treated water is used for the City’s reclaimed water storage and pumping facility. The facility has the capability of storing 10 million gallons of water, which is sent on demand to over 1,000 metered commercial and residential locations to provide safe and cost-effective irrigation water for lawns and landscaping. Over 3 million gallons of water per day can be used during the growing season. You can learn more about reclaimed water here.
Any excess water not used by the reclaimed water system is pumped to the City’s 2,900 acre conservation park for release into the wetlands. The site was purchased and developed to receive highly treated effluent and allowed the City AWT Plant to cease all discharges to the West Bay in April 2011. Sampling of water in the Conservation Park is performed routinely and all samples are tested by an independent laboratory service before the results are provided to regulatory agencies. While the Conservation Park site was originally acquired as a utility need, it serves a dual purpose by providing over 24 miles of off-road cycling, running and hiking opportunities for the public during daylight hours. You can learn more about Conservation Park here.
The Division also operates and maintains over 130 wastewater lift stations in the utility service area. These stations pump raw wastewater, collected from thousands of homes and businesses, to the City AWT Plant for treatment. Performance of the pump stations are monitored 24 hours a day to ensure they are working properly.
Panama City Beach purchases all of its treated potable (drinking) water from Bay County under a long term wholesale supply contract. During high demand or tourist season, over 17 million gallons of water per day are received by the City through two delivery points. Near each of these two points, the City operates a large water storage and pumping station with the ability to convey water, through a distribution system, to the customers. The stations have a combined storage capacity of 25 million gallons to provide a safe and consistent water supply in the event of temporary disruptions in supplies from the County or for additional water for the Fire Department when fighting fires.
The potable water is treated and tested by Bay County to ensure compliance with state and federal water standards. As required by the state and federal rules and regulations, after the treated water is delivered to the City, it is regularly monitored and tested at the storage tank and in the distribution system. Sampling of water is done routinely and all samples are tested by an independent laboratory service before the results are provided to regulatory agencies. Each year by July 1st, all public water systems are required to produce Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) that informs customers where their water comes from and what is in it. You can see the most recent Panama City Beach water system CCR here. The City also has a strong backflow and cross connection control program to help protect the public water system from inadvertent contamination. You can get more information on that program here.
The underground utilities personnel maintain and repair the City’s utility systems including water mains, gravity and pressurized sewer mains, and reclaimed water mains throughout the City service area, which encompasses of over 640 miles of piping in sizes up to 3 feet in diameter. The underground utilities personnel also maintain and replace the 23,000+ water meters used to monitor consumption for billing purposes. Occasionally, after a water main repair, a precautionary boil water notice is issued by the City. This is usually as the result of inadvertent damage being done to a buried pipe by someone digging. More information on Boil Water Notices can be found here.
Underground utilities personnel also inspect and maintain the gravity sewer system on a regular basis. These wastewater pipes carry water from homes to a wastewater lift station in the area, where it will be pumped to a larger station and ultimately to the City AWT Plant for treatment. Some of the gravity mains are installed up to 20 feet deep underground. The wastewater system is not designed or permitted to carry stormwater runoff. Periodically, utilities personnel will conduct “smoke testing” of the gravity sewer system to check for cracks and broken pipes and for illegal connections to the system. Inspecting and keeping the system in a good condition is important to prevent undesirable stormwater inflow from overloading the wastewater treatment plant and to keep operational costs down. Those additional costs could impact the payment rates of the City’s utility customers.
Albert E. Shortt, P. E.
Telephone: 850-233-5100, ext. 2404
Mark Shaeffer, P. E.
Telephone: 850-233-5100, ext. 2231
Telephone: 850-233-5100, ext. 2400