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Smoke testing of sewer lines to begin in Jonesborough

Jonesborough Director of Environmental Services Hugh Thomason will soon set out to prove that where there is smoke, there is not always fire.
“We don’t want people to get upset or panic if they see smoke,” Thomason said. “We are putting smoke into sewer lines in order to find leaks.”
Throughout the next four to six months, employees will blow liquid smoke into sewer lines throughout the town.
Smoke testing, according to Thomason, is a safe way to find sections of the sanitary sewer lines that have cracks, leaks or faulty connections that allow rain to enter the sanitary sewer.
“If smoke comes out, water can come in so you will know there’s a break in the line,” Thomason explained. “And then we should be able to dig it up and find that leak.”
The extra flow caused by rainwater entering the system, known as inflow and infiltration, causes sewer lines to be overloaded, sewer system overflows, back-ups and poor efficiency at the wastewater treatment plant.
“The search to keep your system water tight is a constant,” Thomason said. “You cannot eliminate I&I completely. The best you can hope for is to reduce it down to 10 to 15 percent.”
The town is currently operating at a 25 to 30 percent I&I.
“We are starting to tighten the system,” Thomason said. “We’ve hit a lot of the big things.”
The “big things” include recent work to a sewer lift station in the New Halifax neighborhood of Jonesborough.
“When that station was constructed, it was in a hole,” Thomason explained. “We actually raised the station and the valve vault up about 4 feet. That significantly decreased the I&I in that area.”
Thomason is hoping the smoke testing will help eliminate even more leaks.
“We expect to find some leaks. We know they are out there,” he said. “And we want to see smoke so we can find those leaks.”
Municipalities typically do smoke testing every three to four years. Jonesborough last did it in 2008.
While crews have used a closed-circuit camera system to find leaks since then, Thomason believes the smoke testing will help find even more problems.
Crews will be going door to door handing out information about the smoke testing prior to conducting it in each area of the town.
If home plumbing systems are correctly installed and well-vented with working water traps, smoke should not enter a person’s home. If smoke does enter a home, it is an indication of deficiencies in the residence’s plumbing, Thomason said.
Testing is expected to begin in the area of Ben Gamble Road to May Drive.
For more information about the town’s smoke testing, call 753-1023.