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Smoke signals sewer problems

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May 1, 2007

Thomasville--  This week the utilities department is implementing one phase of a program that will take 4 to 6 years to complete.  It will save the city money, and could save you from dangerous sewer gases.  

It's a harmless, non-toxic smoke, but what it detects can be very harmful.  The city is working with Custom Environmental, injecting the smoke into 200 manholes.  Between each manhole runs 300 feet of pipe.

"If it has any defects in the pipes then the smoke will escape and that will indicate there's a problem with the sewer line," says Mike Atkinson, Director of Operations for the Gas, Water, & Sewer Department.

What they're looking for is called inflow and infiltration, or I & I.  "That's where we get ground water running into the sewer lines and then that water through the sewer system is gravitated out to the waste water treatment plant," explains Atkinson.

Treating that water runs up the cost of operating the treatment facility.  Catching the defects now will save lots of money in the long run.

But its not just about money- there could be problems that could affect you, too.   There is a chance you could see the smoke enter your home through your kitchen sink, or floor drains in your house, like the one in your bathtub.  "Basically that would be an indicator that your pipes coming to you from the street have a problem with you personal sewer lines," Atkinson says.

It something that's easily missed sometimes, but its important to get it checked out.  "Sewer gases could penetrate back into your home which could cause illness, up to and including even death," Atkinson warns. 

If you do see smoke, don't panic.  Call 911 or the utilities department to make sure its just smoke testing.  Then, take care of the problem.  Atkinson advises, "you need to contact your local plumber to come out and check your lines out."  The smoke could be the warning signal that saves your life.

After each manhole in this phase of the program is tested, the city will go back to each one where there was a defect and repair it.  They say when the 4 to 6 year project is complete, they'll have a much better hand on the condition of their system for future years.

 

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