The Benefits of Smoke Testing for Sewer System Maintenance


Smoke testing is a common inspection method that blows non-toxic smoke into manholes to identify sewer defects. The smoke travels through the pipes and reveals the location of defective connections, leaks, or breakage in the main sewer line or private sewer laterals.

Smoke testing is an effective way to locate stormwater inflow and infiltration issues. It helps reduce the risk of sewage overflows, waste treatment costs, and insurance rates.

Reduced Risk of Sewage Overflows

Smoke testing for sewer system maintenance is a safe and cost-effective way to detect defects that allow stormwater to enter the sewer. During smoke testing, blowers force non-toxic smoke into the sewer line through manholes and roof vents.

Upon discovering any defects in the main sewer pipe or private lateral, our inspection crews notify the property owner of these problems and request they contact a licensed plumber to repair them.

Sewage overflows can cause significant environmental and health impacts and costly cleanup costs. This is why many countries have implemented strict regulations to reduce the risk of sewer overflows.

Reducing combined sewer overflow (CSO) risk begins with deeply understanding the sewer network’s strengths and weaknesses. Mitigation measures include:

  • Maximizing storage capacity.
  • Reducing stormwater flows.
  • Screening and disinfection facilities.
  • Green infrastructure.
  • Real-time decision support systems.

Reduced Wastewater Treatment Costs

Smoke testing effectively identifies sewer defects that can lead to the inflow and infiltration of wastewater and stormwater. These defects can increase wastewater treatment costs, create sanitary sewer overflows, and harm the environment.

In addition to locating leaks, sewer smoke tests help detect other potential problems, such as breaches in utility holes, cracks in main sewer pipes and private laterals, uncapped lines, and other defects. They can also locate illegal sewer line connections and other violations of local ordinances.

During smoke testing, field technicians pump non-toxic smoke through the sewer system and observe where it exits. Typically, this exiting smoke indicates roof drains, catch basins, or yard drains connected to the sewer system. It may also indicate foundation drains and other direct openings to connecting sewers.

Reduced Environmental Impact

Smoke testing is a cost-effective, time-efficient approach to locating leaks and defects in the public sewer system. It helps identify areas where repairs and rehabilitation should be prioritized.

The smoke used in the test is non-toxic, odorless, and safe for human, animal, and plant life. It also leaves no stains or residuals.

It is a simple method of identifying holes, connections, and leaks that allow surface rainwater to enter the sewer system. It will reveal broken manholes, illegal roof drains and sump pumps and yard drains, cracks in laterals (the connection between the main sewer line and a building), and other defects.

During the test, the staff uses machinery to blow non-toxic smoke into the sewer lines. The smoke travels the path of least resistance, showing up at sites that allow surface water inflow.

Reduced Insurance Costs

Smoke testing is a preventative maintenance measure that helps to locate and repair sewer defects. It’s an essential way to reduce the risk of sewer overflows and the expense of sewage treatment.

The non-toxic smoke is blown into maintenance holes, and crews observe areas where the smoke escapes to locate pipe leaks, cracks, or any other problems within the system. When a defect is found, the area will be marked and photographed.

If a stormwater connection is identified, a formal letter from the City will be sent to the property owner, and they are required to correct the problem.

Before the testing, please pour approximately two gallons of water into seldom-used sinks, tubs, showers, and any floor drains in your house or basement to reduce the chance of sewer gas and smoke entering your home. If you see smoke entering your home during testing, be calm and open windows and doors to ventilate.

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