County To Smoke Test Sewers
June 26, 2007
As part of an ongoing maintenance and operations program, Placer County is smoke testing residential areas to determine if connections, other than sewer lines, have been made to the sewer system. Adding illegal connections, such as water from storm drains, can overload sanitary sewer systems, adding to the County’s cost of providing services and creating problems elsewhere.
That’s because storm water drains are a separate network of piping, channeling storm water into creeks and other waterways. Sanitary sewer lines channel waste water to the sewer treatment plant, a much more expensive operation.
Left unchecked, widespread problems such as illegal connections can increase costs to sewer customers and result in sewer overflows.
Smoke testing consists of blowing harmless, odorless smoke into parts of the sewer system to locate damaged pipes, identify improper connections, and show areas where unwanted storm water may be entering the County’s sewer system. Smoke pumped into pipes will not seep out if all the connections are properly installed and seals are in good repair. However, sometimes smoke pours out from rain gutters or yard and driveway drains, indicating improper connections, therefore unwanted and excessive water flows into the sewer system. These connections need to be disconnected and properly rerouted.
During smoke testing, smoke may enter your building because plumbing fixtures in your home or business are connected to the sanitary sewer system. This happens particularly under the following circumstances:
This testing is important because each year millions of gallons of storm water needlessly flow into the County sewer lines overloading the system of conveyance piping and treatment plants. For example, flows at the treatment plant in north Auburn average approximately 2 million gallons per day (MGD). However, during the 2005 New Years storm flows spiked to 10 MGD due to storm water inflows. During each storm, added flows translate into increased costs to operate and maintain the system.
- The vents connected to your buildings sewer pipes are inadequate, defective or improperly installed.
- The traps under sinks, tubs, basins, showers and other drains are dry, defective or improperly installed.
- The pipes, connections or seals in the wastewater drain system in and/or under your building are damaged, defective, have plugs missing or are improperly installed.
County crews continually work to eliminate other sources of storm water flows into the system as part of the larger maintenance and operations program. These efforts include the rehabilitation of manholes, and repairs to old pipelines through joint repairs, replacement of pipe, or relining of pipes. As well, crews continually monitor the 269 miles of pipeline in wet and dry weather to locate high flow areas and use closed circuit television inspection of sewer pipeline to assess conditions.
Residents can help improve their systems’ efficiency by:
For more information please contact Placer County Environmental Engineering and Utilities at (530) 889 –6846 or visit http://www.placer.ca.gov/Facility.aspx and click on Environmental Engineering
- Be sure any drains in your yard or driveway do not connect to a sewer line.
- Be sure rain down spouts flow to the ground or a source other than a sewer line
- Be aware when there is smoke testing in your neighborhood. Placer County notifies residents with a letter and by posting neighborhood fliers.