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Spotsylvania County Utilities conducts sanitary sewer smoke testing to locate problem areas within the overall sanitary sewer system. A Sanitary Sewer Smoke Test is a sewer inspection method in which a non-toxic smoke is blown into a blocked off pipeline segment to see where the smoke emerges. The smoke makes its way through all the connected pipes in that sanitary sewer segment, helping locate pipe leaks, broken manholes, cracks, uncapped lines, and more. If the sewer is in good condition, then the forced smoke will emerge from manhole lids and roof vents along the line. If the line has defects, the smoke will find the break and try to escape through the break.
During smoke testing, you may see smoke coming out of grass, utility boxes, cracked pavement, and more. A defect in an underground sewer pipe may allow smoke to escape up through the ground. Smoke doesn't always originate at the spot where the smoke plume emerges. Sometimes smoke will escape through a defect in the sanitary sewer line, then travel or migrate along the pipe until it finds a way to rise to the surface.
Each test typically lasts about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the segment being tested.
No. The smoke used for this type of testing is non-toxic and non-hazardous, has little odor and creates no fire hazard. It is manufactured specifically for this purpose.
The smoke SCU utilizes is commonly used in the industry and while it is not considered harmful, it is recommended to avoid prolonged periods of exposure. Should smoke appear from a drain or vent inside your residence, open windows and ventilate well to dissipate the smoke.
The smoke should not enter your home or building unless you have defective plumbing or seldom used drains.
It is possible that smoke can enter through a drain trap which has dried out or some other plumbing defect, such as inadequate, defective or improperly installed vents or pipes; or connections or seals in the wastewater drain system in and/or under your home or building are damaged, defective, have plugs missing or are improperly installed.
If you have any seldom used drains, it is recommended that you pour water in the drains to fill the trap and you should do this on a monthly basis. This will help prevent sewer gases or smoke from entering your home or building.
NOTE: IF SMOKE CAN ENTER YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS, THEN DANGEROUS SEWER GASES CAN ALSO ENTER THE STRUCTURE.
If smoke can enter through faulty plumbing, the potential exists for sanitary sewer gases to enter your home or business. If this occurs, you should consult a licensed plumber to make repairs to your private property plumbing.
If smoke enters your home or building, open windows and/or doors to allow ventilation and note the location of the smoke emission. Smoke should clear in a few minutes. Exit the building and contact a member of the smoke testing crew working in your area. The crew member will be pleased to assist you with locating where the smoke may be entering the structure.
Please keep in mind, smoke should not enter your home or building. If smoke enters the structure, then it is an indicator that you have defective plumbing or dry drain traps. While the crew member is pleased to assist you with investigating where the smoke may be entering the structure, you are advised to consult with a licensed plumber to make repairs to your private property plumbing.
If you have seldom used drains, it is recommended that you pour water in the drains to fill the traps, which will help prevent sewer gases or smoke from entering the building. You should do this on a monthly basis to keep the traps from becoming dry.
Message boards will be set-up one to two days in advance in the area(s) where sanitary sewer smoke testing is taking place. You can also view the Utilities News (LINK) for more details. Generally, scheduled sanitary sewer smoke testing takes place Monday - Thursday, 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. with the exception of holidays.
During smoke testing, field crews force smoke into the sanitary sewer. During these tests, the possibility exists for smoke to enter a residence or business due to infrequently used drains or a defect in the private property sewer pipes.
A drain trap is the S-shaped curvature or elbow in the pipe that exists to capture and hold water in the trap's curve. This water in the trap creates a type of seal and blocks gases from rising up through the drain and into the home. This trap will also keep the smoke from entering the building. A dry drain trap could be found in drains which are not used regularly and the water has evaporated.
Water should be ran in these isolated areas monthly to maintain the drain seal in proper operating condition.
If smoke testing is taking place in your area, you should check to see that all drain traps under basins, washing facilities and floor drains contain water; simply flush toilets and run or pour water into all drains, including unused fixtures and floor drains.
Yes, smoke alarms may be activated during smoke testing if the smoke enters your home or business. If the smoke enters the building, open windows and doors for ventilation. If you are not sure or have any doubts about the smoke, call 911.
Remember, if the smoke enters your home or business, this is an indicator that you have dry traps or defective private property plumbing.
No. Inspections crews do not need to enter your home unless smoke is present and you want them to help identify the defect. You are not required to allow entry to our crews.