City of Valdosta Begins Smoke Testing of Sanitary Sewer System

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, the City of Valdosta Utilities Department will begin smoke testing of the entire sanitary sewer system, a process that will take place in sections of the city over the next 4 years. The process will help the city identify and eliminate sources of storm water inflow and infiltration into the sewer system that cannot be identified by closed-circuit televising of sewer lines.

The inflow and infiltration that occurs during heavy rain events causes increased flows in the sewer system, which can lead to sewer surcharges within the system as well as operational problems at both of the city's wastewater treatment facilities. Neither sewer system of the associated treatment plants is designed to handle storm water flows attributed to inflow or infiltration.

The city's contractor will notify residents or businesses in the areas to be tested at least 24 to 48 hours in advance by using an informational door hanger, written in English and Spanish. Click Here to view door hangers that will be distributed. The white or grey-colored smoke used during this test is non-toxic, non-staining, odorless, creates no fire hazard and does not pose any harm to the environment. Typically, citizens will see this smoke coming out of missing sewer clean-out caps, breaks in sewer lines or manholes, roof vent stacks associated with the building's plumbing system and roof drains that should not be connected to the sewer system, as well as storm water ponds or catch basins that are improperly connected to the sewer system, to name a few.

While it is very unlikely for smoke to enter a building, it is recommended that residents and businesses in these test areas 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. If this occurs, citizens should make note of the location where the smoke is entering and contact a plumber or contractor to make the repairs. It is very important 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. Should smoke enter any building during the test, citizens are advised to open windows and doors to allow the smoke to clear. The smoke should be gone within 15 minutes.

Smoke testing is scheduled to begin on Jan. 28, at 7 a.m., in the area of W. Hill Ave. and Robert's Alley in downtown Valdosta, weather permitting. Smoke testing cannot be accomplished during or immediately after heavy rain events, due to full sewer lines and saturated ground that will not allow the smoke to rise to the surface. The time was selected in order to have the least impact on businesses.

The Valdosta Fire Department will be on hand in the event that any smoke alarms are triggered during testing periods. After smoke testing is complete at the downtown location, the contractor will then move to the Meadowbrook area. Hours and days for smoke testing will be Tuesday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Special arrangements will be made for schools, hospitals, childcare and other medical facilities, as well as persons with respiratory or other serious medical conditions.

The contractors performing this work will be wearing identification tags and will be clearly visible while working. Click Here for frequently asked questions about this testing process. If there are additional questions, contact the Utilities Department at (229) 259-3592 or the contractor at (229) 588-2864.

Visit the Utilities Department's smoke testing information webpage by clicking here.