The City of Valdosta will begin the fourth and final phase of its Smoke Testing Program on July 11. Crews will spend the next 18-20 weeks smoke testing 120 miles of underground sewer lines that will identify and eliminate sources of stormwater inflow and infiltration and improve the efficiency of city’s sanitary sewer collection system.
Valdosta’s sewer collection system is made up of over 300 miles of sewer lines, of which 180 miles have been inspected since January 2014 through this program. The smoke testing of the underground pipes has been successful in identifying defects for repairs and, in addition to over $60 million of other improvements that include the new Force Main Project and the new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant, is part of the city’s overall commitment to the delivery of quality utility services.
As part of the Smoke Testing Program, the city sewer system was divided into five zones. As of July 2016, zones 1, 4 and 5 have been smoke tested. Smoke testing in zones 2 and 3 will be completed during Phase Four.
Informational door hangers will be distributed before the work begins in each Phase Four area to notify residents and businesses in the area about what to expect (view the door hanger, smoke testing photos and Frequently Asked Questions fliers). The white or gray-colored smoke used during this test is non-toxic, non-staining, odorless, and creates no fire hazard or any harm to the environment.
During the testing, it is normal to see smoke exiting sewer manholes, as well as plumbing vents on the top of buildings. While it is very unlikely for smoke to enter a building, it is recommended that residents and businesses in the test area pour at least 16 ounces of water down all drains to ensure that plumbing drain traps are holding water. The water in drain traps will prevent the smoke from entering the inside of homes and businesses.
Smoke that does enter a home or business during the test indicates that there may be faulty or defective internal plumbing, which should be repaired as soon as possible. It is very important for property owners to make these repairs, since smoke entering any structure during the smoke test is also an indication that sewer gases are likely entering as well from that same location. If smoke does enter any building during the test, citizens are advised to open windows and doors to allow the smoke to clear for approximately 15 minutes.
The city’s contractor is communicating specific testing locations with the Valdosta Fire Department, in the event that calls are received on account of the smoke. Also, special arrangements will be made for persons with respiratory or other serious medical conditions.
The contractors performing this work will be wearing identification tags that will be clearly visible to others. Inclement weather could postpone the testing, as smoke testing cannot be accomplished during or immediately after heavy rain. In that case, businesses and residents should expect the process to take a few days longer.
For more information about the Smoke Testing Program, contact the Utilities Department at 229-259-3592. Citizens may also access more information, including a map of the Phase Four smoke testing area, at http://www.valdostacity.com/smoke-testing-sanitary-sewer-system.