Sewer system smoke testing scheduled for next week in the Carter’s Grove neighborhood

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Water Services will conduct routine smoke testing of the sanitary sewer system in the Carter’s Grove neighborhood the week of September 18. The testing will occur between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and may continue into the following next week if needed.

We do our best to ensure the public is aware of the tests, but the Fire Department still gets calls from worried residents seeing smoke seeping out of sinks or other places. Although no fire is present, CSFD still responds, tying up emergency response resources.

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. It may exit through vent pipes on roofs, wastewater utility holes, and the ground above breaks in the sewer system. Smoke may even find its way into service connections and vent from buildings served by the wastewater lines.

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. Smoke may vent from buildings served by the wastewater lines. 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 toilet’s base where the wax seal has come undone. You can prevent that by running water down sinks that aren’t used often. Sinks getting regular use will already have water in the P-trap that keeps the smoke out.

The wastewater collection system is designed to treat wastewater, not stormwater, and is vital in maintaining our infrastructure.

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 pipe cracks and holes. 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.

For more about smoke testing, contact me at 979-764-6223 or 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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