Jun 18, 2020

Darker Water at Panama City Beach Caused by Tannins

The noticeable changes in the color of the water near Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach were caused by tannins, according to city officials

Panama City Beach water

In a Facebook post that showed dark water near Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, the city addressed the darker water and said it came from a group of natural springs along the coast.

Initially, there were rumors that the darkness of Panama City Beach water was caused by a sewage leak, but Kathy Younce, an engineer for the city, said the outflows are not connected to the city’s sewage system. According to her, the noticeable changes in the color of the water were caused by tannins, reported NWF Daily News.

According to Younce, overflowing storm water from these springs is funneled to the Gulf through 10 continuous outfalls along the beach. Tannins are 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, according to city officials. 

Is the Panama City Beach Water Safe for Swimmers?

“We wanted to...kind of educate everybody concerning the ecosystem,” Younce said on Facebook. “A lot of people see the dark colored water, and they get suspicious, and they don’t really understand the ecological system of the dune lakes when they flush.”

Tannins are naturally occurring minerals created by decayed vegetation, according toChristian Wagley, the coastal organizer for Healthy Gulf. Healthy Gulf is a nonprofit “committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf Region.”

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The tannins are not harmful to swimmers, reported both Younce and Wagley. 

“Unfortunately a lot of times, sewage leaks don’t give us as much of visual indication as we would like,” said Wagley. “It’s great for folks to always be on the lookout anytime they see dramatic changes in the color of water. Sometimes, that does indicate pollution and it’s absolutely right for people to contact authorities when they see something like that.”

According to the city, from time to time, the City of Panama City Beach hears from concerned residents and visitors alike related to discolored water in the Gulf. Panama City Beach water is fresh water that discharges from spring-fed bodies of water, coming through a pipe outfall beneath Front Beach Road and out towards the Gulf of Mexico. 

“These discolored outflows are a unique aspect of our lake ecosystem,” according to city officials on their website. “They are naturally occurring fresh-water flows from spring-fed lakes and are not harmful or polluted. The City will continue to work to educate both our locals and our tourists on this issue and would suggest that condos and resort properties assist in these educational efforts.”

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