St. Pete considers law forcing homeowners to repair sewer pipes

St. Petersburg continues to make progress fixing its sewage system but the city may soon ask homeowners to foot the bill for fixing their own pipes.

Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley says the is spending millions to restore the aging system but it’s time for homeowners to take on some of the burden.

City council will consider a new law that would force property owners to fix the sewage pipe that runs from the house to the street.

Homeowners would be informed by the city their pipe needed to be fixed or replaced after testing the pipe by pumping in smoke.

If they see smoke coming up through the grass, the homeowner would be put on notice.

Jeffery Jew is a homeowner in St. Petersburg and says his pipes seem to drain just fine but he has no clue whether the pipe connecting his home to the city’s system

On a sunny day, it’s estimated that two-thirds of the sewage coming into St. Pete’s treatment centers is actually groundwater that gets in through leaky pipes, rather than coming directly from homes.

“It adds a significant amount of water into our system that doesn’t need to be there,” Tankersly pointed out.

Half of the sewage pipes in the city are privately owned so the city says it is ready to take a bold step with the new law.

“We would be one of the first in Florida,” Tankersly said.

The city is considering a rebate program to help homeowners with the potential thousands needed for repairs, but nothing has been put on paper.

“We are not entering into this, ignoring the impact to the public. We are not, but we also can’t fail to do anything,” Tankersly said.

The city says this is more about awareness than enforcement. Some homeowners say that will remain to be seen. City council members will hear the proposal Nov. 7 with a final vote in December.