Starting next week Eugene Public Works is smoke testing in parts of the Friendly Neighborhood. The testing, which is endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, uses non-toxic smoke and dyed water to help identify improper connections and areas where water is getting into the public wastewater collection system.
“Clean water getting into the system only creates more work further down the line,” said Carla Spangler, I & I Investigation Project Manager. “All of the water in the sanitary sewer lines ends up being treated at the wastewater collection facility. If we can find where clean water is getting into the sewer, we can fix the problem and keep it from getting in there in the first place.”
During the isolated smoke test, staff release a non-toxic white smoke into the public wastewater system to identify problems. The smoke does not harm plants or animals and quickly dissipates leaving no residue or stains. Residents are notified by door hangers one or two days before testing begins in their neighborhood. The inspection of where smoke emerges helps crews assess the condition of the system and determine specific problems regarding improper connections, as well as public sewer in streets and easements. The testing is expected to take several months to complete.
Deteriorated sewer lines and improper stormwater connections cause a problem called inflow and infiltration. The region's wastewater collection and treatment system is designed to carry only so much water and sewage. Inflow and infiltration of stormwater runoff and groundwater can overload the system, increasing the difficulty and cost of transporting and treating wastewater.
If smoke testing reveals a defect in the public portion of the wastewater collection system, the defect is corrected as soon as possible. If extensive defects are found, capital rehabilitation projects are planned, funded and completed to correct the problem.
If smoke testing identifies a stormwater connection prohibited in the City code, such as a roof drain connected to the sanitary sewer, the property owner is notified and is required to correct the problem. If testing identifies a possible defect in the private portion of the sewer (the line that connects the building to the public sewer), the owner is notified of potential problems with their private sewer.
To minimize the chances of smoke entering the home, residents can pour water into seldom used plumbing fixture drains (such as sinks, laundry tubs, washing machine drains, showers and bathtubs) and any floor drains within the house, basement or garage.
Residents with questions about the City’s smoke testing program can call the Public Works Maintenance Division at 541-682-4800.