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Smoke Testing of Sanitary Sewers
Smoke testing is an annual preventative maintenance program of the Public Utilities Department used to find defects in the sanitary sewer system. A contractor will pump smoke through the sewer line and look for places along the pipes where smoke leaks out. They then use this information to schedule repairs in the pipes along the right-of-way.
Smoke testing could also bring attention to defects in the sanitary sewer system on your own private property. You’ll know this if smoke leaks into your home during the tests. If it does, that could point to broken pipes, loose couplings, bad wax seals on toilets, and other issues. A certified plumber can help you diagnose the problem.
The smoke is non-toxic, harmless to humans and pets, and will not damage food or material goods. It’s also not a fire hazard. If smoke does enter your home, open windows and, with proper ventilation, it should clear within a few minutes. You don’t have to be home during smoke testing but you might want to leave windows open a crack if you plan to be out, just in case smoke does enter the home. If you have breathing concerns and wish to block your home from this testing, call Public Utilities at 757-382-3417.
Crews will leave a notice at your door a day or two before they conduct smoke testing on your street. 911 Dispatch is also notified, in the event they receive calls from residents who see smoke and think fire. Smoke testing is currently done by a contractor, Hydrostructures. Several neighborhood blocks are tested at one time, each set taking about 20-30 minutes. You can view the smoke testing schedule, which is updated bi-monthly.
The City's goal is to smoke test 10% of the gravity sewer pump station service areas per year to fulfill a ten year cycle of smoke testing all the gravity sanitary sewers in the City.