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City to continue "smoke testing" for sewer line defects in 2018

St. Petersburg, Fla.  (January 18, 2018) -- The city has resumed smoke testing in areas identified as being susceptible to Inflow and Infiltration (I&I). Testing is beginning in the Jordan Park Neighborhood (between 22nd-28th St S and 12th-18th Av. S) and will be taking place in other areas through the city over the next two months.

What is Smoke Testing?
Smoke testing is used to detect any water other than wastewater entering the sewer system.

That un-needed -- and illegal -- water intrusion could be coming from roof leaders, cross connections between the wastewater and stormwater systems, driveway and yard drains, damage to the wastewater system, compromised cleanouts, loose joints in the wastewater pipes, etc. Smoke testing has been used for years to find such issues.  It is a historically sound, inexpensive and effective way to quickly identify inflow sources.

Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) can lead to sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).  While the City is continuing its work on increasing sewer system capacity, this testing can also identify ways that sewer tie-ins from individual customers can be fixed to help decrease the burden on the sewers – and help reduce the potential harm to our precious waterways around Tampa Bay.

How does Smoke Testing work?
City crews position a blower at a manhole and blow smoke down into it.
The smoke then travels down the sewer and follows the “path of least resistance.”

If there are any openings along the way, some of the smoke will escape through the opening. Smoke may appear to be coming from holes in the ground or vent stacks on houses. After blowing smoke into the line, the City crew will look to see where smoke is escaping.

smoke testing
(graphic courrtesy of Superior Signal)

Is the Smoke dangerous?
No. It’s kinda like the smoke you’d see at a concert or large stage production.

The smoke – manufactured specifically for this purpose -- is odorless and is not hazardous, toxic, or flammable. While it could make you cough, it is not harmful to your health.

The smoke will not harm clothing, drapes, or furniture. The smoke is also not harmful to your pets or plants. Smoke that gets in buildings dissipates quickly and leaves no residue or stains. If smoke enters a residence through cracks in the indoor plumbing, there is also potential for sewer gas to enter the residence. In such instances, the homeowner should immediately call a plumber to repair the problem.

Residential Notification

Before we smoke test the sanitary sewer system, we will notify residents of the dates we will be testing with door hangars, notices on and other public outreach including our twitter feed @StPetePW.


Important Residents’ Instructions for Smoke Testing:

  • When you are notified that smoke testing is going to occur in your neighborhood you should make sure that all traps under basins (including garage sinks), washing facilities, and floor drains have water in them. This can be done by pouring three cups of water in them or running the faucet for 60 seconds. This will help prevent smoke from entering your home.
  • If you have pets and are not going to be home when smoke testing is being conducted, it would be a good idea to leave several windows partially open for ventilation, should any smoke enter the building.
  • If smoke gets into the house, contact the Water Resources Department at (727) 893-7261, then open your windows for ventilation -- the smoke will soon dissipate.
  • Smoke should not enter your house.
    If it does, it may be an indication of a defect in your plumbing.
    This defect could allow sewer gases to enter your house.
    Sewer gases can be a health hazard.
  • The correction of these defects in your plumbing is the responsibility of the homeowner. A licensed plumber should be consulted to make the corrections properly.

Link to St. Petersburg Public Works YouTube Channel:

For more information, contact Bill Logan at St. Petersburg Public Works Communications at (727) 893-7250

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City of St. Petersburg
P.O. Box 2842
St. Petersburg, FL 33731

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