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St. Pete to residents: Fix your broken sewer pipes

The city is considering an ordinance that would require property owners repair or replace broken sewer lines if the city discovers a problem. City officials are working on a rebate program to help with costs.

ST. PETERSBURG — Recovering from the sewage crisis has taken the city years and cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now, officials say, it’s time for property owners to do their part.

The City Council is considering an ordinance that would force property owners to repair or replace broken sewer lines — the ones that connect homes or businesses to the street — if the city discovers a problem with them. Those pipes are private property.

The ordinance doesn’t yet have a lot of teeth, and though replacing the pipes could cost a homeowner thousands, city officials say it won’t force many property owners to incur major costs, at least any time soon. They hope to eventually establish a rebate program to encourage property owners to willingly inspect and repair their sewer lines.

“This provides an opportunity for us to team up with the private property owners to solve this problem together,” said St. Petersburg Water Resources Director John Palenchar.

But, he said, it stops short of requiring inspections across the board.

“So rather than put an unfunded mandate on homeowners, we’re trying to work on a funding mechanism,” he said.

Passing an ordinance that addresses private sewer laterals — the lines are called laterals because they run sideways from the street to structures — by June 2020 is a requirement of the consent order the city signed with the state after the 2015-16 sewage crisis. The city released up to a billion gallons of sewage, of which up to 200 million gallons made it to Tampa Bay.