City has 10 continuous outfalls on the beach
An outfall snakes its way from Front Beach Road to the Gulf. While discolored, beach outfalls are not dirty water.
The City of Panama City Beach is home to 10 continuous outfalls whereby water discharges through a pipe outfall beneath Front Beach Road and out to the Gulf of Mexico. Another five exist on the island in unincorporated Bay County.
The water has a discolored appearance, but it is actually fresh water and is completely safe. These bodies of water are naturally occurring along our sandy beaches and when we get a lot of rain, many of the lakes like Lullwater fill up and fresh water discharges into the Gulf.
This fresh water contains dark colored tannins which is created when pine needles, leaves, grasses and other organic matter get into the water and break down over time, giving it a dark tea-stained look. This water might be perceived as polluted by some, but it is not. This process is also naturally occurring within our lakes and similar lakes can be found in Walton County.
This occurs similarly in the Walton County dune lakes areas, as continuous outfalls have wetlands, lakes and other bodies of water upstream of them.
The City of Panama City Beach maintains these outfalls, from west of Sands Street to Richard Jackson Boulevard to the east and works hard to keep the discharge directed straight towards the Gulf to prevent meandering to neighboring properties.
“This is a challenge, however, as changes in the tide and surf make maintenance difficult,” said Interim Public Works Director Kelly Jenkins.
As progress continues on the Front Beach Road CRA (Community Redevelopment Area), some improvements are being made to certain outfalls, such as the one at Lullwater.
To reiterate, these discolored outflows are a unique aspect of our lake ecosystem. They are naturally occurring fresh-water flows from spring-fed lakes and are not harmful or polluted.
“The Public Works Department will continue to help educate both our locals and our tourists on this issue,” Jenkins said.
The Florida Department of Health provides water quality sampling along our beaches to ensure our water remains healthy for public and marine life use. Water reports can be found here: Beach Water
Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 233-5100.