The City of Valdosta is scheduled to begin phase two of smoke testing its sanitary sewer collection system next week.
From 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, July 7-12, weather permitting, the second phase encompasses an area of Valdosta commercial water customers in the west region of the city that includes the Valdosta Mall and a portion of Remerton.
The work is part of the city’s Smoke Testing Program that began in January in an effort to smoke test the city’s entire sanitary sewer collection system in sections of the city during the next four years. The process will help the city identify and eliminate sources of stormwater inflow and infiltration, as well as grease blockages — both of which have consequences that impact the city’s system.
On Monday, informational door hangers written in English and Spanish will notify residents and businesses in the area about what to expect. The white or grey-colored smoke used during this test is non-toxic, non-staining, odorless, and creates no fire hazard or any harm to the environment. Typically, citizens will see this smoke coming out of lines with 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 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 enters and contact a plumber or contractor to make the repairs. It is 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, according to city officials. Should smoke enter any building during the test, citizens are advised to open windows and doors to allow the smoke to clear — which should take approximately 15 minutes.
The Valdosta Fire Department will be on hand during the smoke testing period, in the event that any smoke alarms are triggered. Also, special arrangements will be made for persons with respiratory or other serious medical conditions.
The contractors performing this work will be wearing identification tags that will be clearly visible to others. Inclement weather could postpone the testing, as smoke testing cannot be accomplished during or immediately after heavy rain events, due to the full sewer lines and saturated ground that will not allow the smoke to rise to the surface. In that event, businesses and residents may expect the process to take a few days longer.
The Smoke Testing Program is one of many efforts by the city’s Utilities Department to identify and correct sanitary sewer collection system issues and complements the city’s ongoing Fats, Oils, and Grease Program. The FOG program requires water customers who have commercial kitchens to install interceptors which collect and prevent fats, oils and grease from clogging city sewer lines, or causing sewage spills or potential backflows.