By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator
College Station Water Services will conduct routine smoke testing next week to evaluate the condition of wastewater lines in the area bounded by Holleman Drive, Wellborn Road, George Bush Drive, and Texas Avenue.
The testing will occur between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday. It will extend into the following week if needed.
Smoke testing identifies locations of defects and improper connections. Technicians blow an odorless, non-toxic mist into the sewer and wait to see where it leaks out. It may exit through vent pipes on roofs, wastewater utility holes, and the ground above breaks in the sewer system. Smoke might even find its way into service connections and vent from buildings served by the wastewater lines.
We do our best to make sure the public is aware of the tests, but the Fire Department still gets calls from worried residents who see smoke seeping out of sinks or elsewhere. Although no fire is present, CSFD still responds, which ties up our valuable emergency response resources.
What are the benefits?
The wastewater collection system is designed to treat wastewater, not stormwater, and plays a vital role in maintaining our infrastructure. Excess water from inflow and infiltration takes up capacity in the pipes and ends up in our treatment plants, where we must treat it as sewage, resulting in higher treatment costs.
Inflow is stormwater that enters the sewer system through direct connections such as downspouts and drains connected to sewer 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.
Is it dangerous?
We use an odorless, non-toxic, non-staining mist that’s highly visible at low concentrations. It’s not actually smoke, so it isn’t hazardous. If the mist enters your home, open the windows or doors, and it should quickly dissipate.
Typically, the smoke enters buildings through a dry P-trap — the curved portion of pipe under the sink — or outside the base of a toilet where the wax seal has come undone. You can prevent this by running water down infrequently-used sinks. The sinks you use regularly have water in the P-trap that keeps the smoke from entering.
For more information, contact me at 979-764-6223. Please report problems with water, wastewater, or electricity to utility dispatch any time at 855-528-4278 and have your account number ready.
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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