Abnormally dry conditions leaving cracks in the ground isn’t good for much around these parts, however it does provide ideal conditions for sanitary sewer smoke testing. Weather permitting, the City of Memphis water department will be performing smoke testing of the sanitary sewer starting next week in the northwest quadrant of town

The program is utilized to review the sewer system in an attempt to locate leaks that could be allowing inflow and infiltration or ground water and storm sewer runoff.

The process is pretty basic, with a special smoke bomb being lowered into the sewer system. Spotters then walk the adjoining properties in search of smoke escaping from the ground or from exposed plumbing.

“These tests will help us in locating breaks and defects in the sewer system,” said Superintendent Stacy Alexander. “You may see smoke coming from vent stacks on buildings or from holes in the ground. Don’t be alarmed.”

The materials used in the testing produce no odor and are non-toxic. The test smoke is non-staining and is not a fire hazard. It typically dissipates in just a few minutes.

The water department is asking for public cooperation during the test period. Homeowners are asked to pour water in all basement floor drains and in any unused sinks, to insure the traps are sealed, meaning no smoke will be able to enter the home.

If this process is performed, and owners still find smoke from the testing process entering their home, Alexander indicated this likely means there are defects in the property’s plumbing that could allow dangerous sewer gas to be entering the structure.

In this case, please identify the location the smoke is entering the home and contact the city at 660-465-7285. Once the problem area is identified, simply open windows or doors and ventilate any smoke that may have entered the home.

Property owners that keep dogs, birds or other pets that will be confined during normal business hours within the testing period are asked to contact the city so special arrangements may be made.