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Pumping sewage underground is illegal. St. Pete wants it legal.

The city wants the state to change its environmental rules to make legal an illegal maneuver it has relied on a lot lately: flushing wastewater down into the aquifer.

The idea was proposed by a consulting firm the city is paying $4 million to create a master plan to guide revamping the sewage system and other water utilities.

Jacobs Engineering project manager Leisha Pica told the City Council on Jan. 4 that this could help improve St. Petersburg’s image after its mishandling of 1 billion gallons of sewage spilled during the 2015-16 sewage crisis.

Legalizing that tactic, she said, would give the city "operational flexibility."

"It seems to be a better perception of the city’s management when you’re doing something that’s not a violation," Pica said at the council meeting, using air quotes when she said "violation."

"So that’s what we’re going for ... It’s a perception of an approach."

The Tampa Bay Times asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection whether it would consider such a request.

The answer was an emphatic no.