$1.2 million project works to get rid of stinky smell in Panama City Beach

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s an issue most Panama City Beach residents have smelled; the Wastewater Treatment Plant off Back Beach Road has an odor you just can’t miss.

“Rank. Very rank,” Logan McClain, a Bay County resident, said.

“Like rotten eggs almost,” Madison Carter, a Bay County resident, said.

It’s a good guess but this smell doesn’t come from a kitchen.

“Yeah the predominant compound that causes the odor is hydrogen sulfide, it’s that rotten egg smell,” Panama City Beach Utilities Director Mark Shaeffer said. “In Florida, just all the sunbelt states all have the same issue. Whenever you have warm temperatures, you’re going to have hydrogen sulfide issues with the collection system and the treatment facilities.”

City leaders paid big bucks to filter out the stinky scent that stems from the facility but hit a few roadblocks along the way.

“They’ve spent over $1.2 million retrofitting the wastewater treatment plant as well as four primary lift stations with what they call biofilters which target the removal of hydrogen sulfide,” Shaeffer said.

The six massive white filtering systems are filled to the brim with tiny little balls. While they may be small, their job is huge.

“In simple terms, we’re basically cultivating bacteria, a special type of bacteria that remove hydrogen sulfide in these large silo-type structures. To give them something to grow on are these little plastic packing balls,” Shaeffer said.

The project was put on hold earlier this year due to supply chain issues. When NewsChannel 7 visited the plant in February, only one smaller unit was up. On Monday’s visit, the second, larger unit was in service.

While they are the only units filtering the plant, they aren’t the only ones in the area. Four other units are being serviced across lift stations on Joan Avenue, La Quinta, Magnolia Beach, and the former Hombre Golf Course.

This week, they will be doing the first tests on the filtering systems to see how well they’re interacting with the hydrogen sulfide.

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