Panama City officials gave us a peek inside the sewers to see just how packed the pipes are stemming from one area restaurant.
No, this thick white foam is not a cleaning agent. That’s what city sewers are swimming in thanks to some lax practices by an area restaurant. City officials traced this massive grease back-up that flooded area homes with sewage last week to the Pofolks Restaurant on the corner of Balboa and Hwy 98. Pofolks management did not return our phone calls but other area restaurants say this kind of back up only happens when grease traps go unchecked.
"We clean ours out every two months they come in a suck it all out basically it costs us about $200 plus a gas surcharge,” says Charlie Coram of Coram’s Restaurant.
Coram gave us a look at the grease trap outside his place on 23rd Street. This trap is due for a clean out in another two weeks. A far cry from what city officials found just downstream from Pofolks.
“It's obviously come from a trap that’s overflowing and hasn’t been kept up. It builds up and then it's like layers of grease,” says Panama City Manager Ken Hammons.
But why has the dumping gone unchecked for so long?
"It's a low priority for the department of business and professional regulation they have to deal with hotels and motels and a myriad of other things," Hammons explains.
A low priority that pushed four area families out of their homes last week when sewage erupted from the clogged pipes and into their homes. Hammons says they've had to make two and three passes on these pipes to get all the grease out.
Hammons says if the city determines Pofolks is the root of the problem that's up to the city's insurance company if the restaurant have to pay for the damages. But he says they will be contacting the Department of Business and Professional Regulation about the problem. However, like Hammons said it seems checking grease traps is a low priority for the agency.
For now the city is starting $2 million cleaning and restoration project to try and clean out some sewer gunk before it gets out of control like this time. All funded by taxpayer dollars.
City officials say their cleaning crews hope to be finished with the grease clogs near Balboa by mid-next week.