Slowly but surely, Bay County's Public Works Department is making headway against a major source of water pollution. A Bear Creek area project is a prime example.
In 1994, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued 60 notices of violation against the county for allowing storm water runoff to carry sediment in surface water bodies. "That's one of the biggest pollution problems we have in the county," said Ken Schnell, Public Works Director.
A crew from Anderson Columbia, Inc. was at work Tuesday near the intersection of North Bear Creek Road and Ed Lee Road. The company was awarded the $413,569 contract for the project. The scope of work includes roadside draining improvements, replacement of an existing cross-drain and paving a 3,100' section of North Bear Creek Road.
The work will require closing the road for 12 days. "Unfortunately, when we replace the cross drain there's no other way around it except to close the road," said Schnell.
People living in the area will be detoured down Scott's Ferry Road to McGill Road, which will add a few miles to their trip. Long-time resident Richard Bodner said it's a small price to pay. "It's going to be inconvenient but I'll be glad when it's over with," he said. "We've been living with this dust on this road for about forty years now."
Schnell said rainwater that eventually makes its way into Deer Point Lake will look a lot different after the project is completed. "It will still go into Bear Creek but it's going to be a lot cleaner," he said.
That has been the goal of each of the drainage projects prompted by the DEP violations. Completion of the North Bear Creek Road project will leave only 15 projects on the list. "It's a big accomplishment and we feel excited about it, especially when we consider how many tons of sediment we remove from our surface water bodies," said Schnell.
The project has a 120 day construction timeline.