‘PROBLEM AREA’: After flooding, claim denial, homeowner looks for remedy in Indian Bayou (PHOTOS)

Matt Algarin
Philip Jata has always grappled with flooding in Indian Bayou. "It's come into the garage before," Jata told The Log while sorting through pictures of his damaged home. "But it's never come into the house until this time."

Philip Jata's home was flooded after heavy rains in July, and now he's looking for answers after his claim was denied by the city of Destin's insurance provider.

"That letter just blew me away," he said of the three-sentence denial letter from PGCS Claims Services, which states "our investigation did not find any coverage for this loss under the PGIT policy … and we respectfully deny your claim for damages."

Jata, an Indian Bayou resident, told The Log he has been experiencing flooding issues at his home for more than 4 years now. Whenever there are heavy rains, he said the drainage pipes that are located around his home begin to back up and water creeps toward his home.

While the water typically floods the roadway and the better part of Jata's front and backyards, it's never gotten into his home before.

But this summer, Jata and his wife were forced to spend a week living with their daughter and her husband while ServPro removed the water, which had completely soaked through the carpeting.

Not only did the water ruin his carpeting and some other items in his home, Jata said there is also damage to his driveway which has noticeable cracks in it that are continually growing. His entire pool, which is enclosed, was swamped and the pool deck stained from dirt and debris.

While he hasn't completed a final tabulation, Jata has easily spent close to $10,000 so far on repairs.

Jata told The Log he has no plans to sue the city of Destin, but he would like to see them step up and fix what's broken.

"I'm not asking for a lot of money or to be reimbursed for a lot of additional expenses," he said. "I just want them to fix my house."

But City Engineer David Campbell suggested the city's hands were tied. Jata's claim was handled by the city's insurance provider, which is the typical process for a situation like this.

“The city worked with the property owner to file a claim with the city’s general liability insurer,” a statement from the city of Destin read. “The investigation did not find any coverage for this loss, and the claim was denied. The city encourages anyone who may experience flooding, whether they are in a flood zone or not, to look into flood insurance, which would help in situations like this.”

Almost 16-inches of rain fell in Destin during the month of July, with a majority of that coming between July 3-6, as 11.18-inches fell according to information from Weather Station Destin.

When heavy rains fall in the city, it's well known that Indian Bayou's roadways become inundated with water. Public works crews are routinely called in to pump water out of the roadways.

"Historically this has been a problem area," Pubic Services Director Tim Pietenpol told The Log at the time. All told, city officials concluded that roughly 3 million gallons of water was pumped out of the Indian Bayou and Country Club Drive intersection during July's rain event.

Jata said multiple attempts have been made by the city to remedy the flooding issues, which included drain replacements, routine pipe cleanings and having the swales revamped.

But nothing has worked.

"It's something the city is well aware of," Jata said, adding that he is a member of the city's public works and public safety committee. "We've talked about it plenty of times over the past few years."

Looking at the situation, Campbell told The Log that part of the problem is the topography, as the area sits lower than surrounding land, and the age of the stormwater system. Campbell said the system was designed in 1985 and was probably built in 1986 or 1987.

And while they have scoped the pipes and cleared debris from the outflow systems, "we don't know the exact condition of the entire system."

As for the flooding, Campbell said the tremendous amount of rainfall in July didn't help matters.

"It rained for three days in a row and the ground was completely saturated," he said. "The water was completely running off, not soaking into the ground."

With funding available in this year's budget, the city is looking into making improvements along Indian Bayou that should ultimately help Jata and other homeowners. Campbell said there are plans to replace about 230-240 feet of pipe, increasing the size from 15 inches to 24 inches.

"It's something we can do to improve the situation," he said.