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St. Petersburg ordinance could require homeowners to replace leaky sewage pipes

St. Petersburg has been plagued by sewage spills since 2015, and now, part of the solution has some residents nervous that they might have to spend thousands to fix sewer pipes on their property.

The major spills -- in St. Petersburg's case, in 2015 and 2016 -- occur when heavy rains flow into cracked and leaking sewer pipes, a process called infiltration and intrusion. The problem peaked after the city shut down one of its sewage processing plants, leaving it with less capacity to process waste.

The city has since budgeted $300 million to repair its public pipes to comply with a state environmental consent order. Now it is turning to property owners, another requirement of the consent order.

“We're asking people to understand that not only is this required of us, what it's really hoping to do is make folks aware of this issue,” said Ben Kirby, the city's spokesman. “Now it's time to determine how much of that infiltration and intrusion problem rests with the citizens and work with them to get that problem fixed.”