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St. Petersburg debates public solutions for fixing private sewage lines

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials believe the waste flowing through private lines into the city's public wastewater system is a big part of the Sunshine City's sewage crisis.

Officials don't know how big of a problem, though, partly because the city doesn't have an ordinance to require private homes and businesses to allow their lines to be inspected.

At Thursday's St. Petersburg City Council meeting, council members and city attorneys wrestled with how to get on (or under) private property to assess how many private pipes are rotting away, allowing storm and groundwater to leak into the system and overwhelm St. Petersburg's three sewer plants.

Residents "may not be aware that it is their responsibility to fix it … as long as it doesn't back up into their shower, it's not a concern," said Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley.

Of course, any program that would require residents to pay potentially thousands of dollars to replace their sewer lines faces plenty of political land mines, he said.