Where there’s smoke, there’s wastewater

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Water Services’ has started its latest round of smoke testing to evaluate the condition of some of our older wastewater lines. Since today is World Toilet Day, it’s a perfect time to make sure these sewer lines are working properly.

We’ll conduct the tests along University Drive and part of the Eastgate area today through Friday between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. If necessary, we may have to extend some of the work to Monday.

World Toilet Day is designed to inspire action about the global sanitation crisis. According to the World Health Organization, a safely managed sanitation service means people can use toilet facilities that are their own, not shared, and we dispose of waste in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

Smoke testing is an indispensable tool that helps us maintain our essential infrastructure by identifying the locations of defects and improper connections. Our technicians blow an odorless and non-toxic smoke into the sewer and wait to see where it might leak.

As part of the process, smoke may exit through vent pipes on roofs, wastewater manholes, and from the ground where there are breaks in the sewer system. It’s also possible that smoke may find its way into service connections and vent from buildings served by the lines.

Our wastewater collection system is designed to treat wastewater, not stormwater, and excess water takes up capacity in the pipes and winds up in our wastewater treatment plants. We must treat like sewage the extra water that gets into our system through inflow and infiltration, and that means higher treatment costs.

Inflow is stormwater that enters the system through direct connections such as downspouts and drains connected to service lines. Infiltration is rainfall that accumulates near sewer lines and enters the system through structural problems such as cracks and holes in the pipes.

We should count ourselves as fortunate that we aren’t among the 4.2 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safely managed sanitation services.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-6223 or jnations@cstx.gov.


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


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