Smoke Testing Season is Here

By David Hamberlin

The late summer/early fall dry season is the perfect time to conduct smoke testing, which is the most cost-effective way to locate collection system defects.

We recommend following these steps to make your smoke testing project a success.

  • Communication – The first and most important step of a successful smoke testing project is communication with everyone who will be involved and affected by the project. This group may include emergency services, schools, hospitals, local government, businesses and residents. The more effort that is put into communication prior to smoke testing, the more successful the project typically is. Press releases, newspaper advertisements, door hangers and phone calls are just some of ways to get the word out. It’s important to remember that this process is new to many people, and you should treat each of them the same way that you would want your family treated. Take time and be patient while answering questions. It is also a good idea to educate field personnel on how to deal with the public and how to answer questions that will arise throughout the project.

  • Weather – Mother Nature plays a key role in scheduling smoke testing. Smoke testing typically looks for inflow and infiltration defects. Inflow sources are directly connected to the sewer and will usually smoke even if the ground conditions are not ideal. Infiltration comes from defects in pipes where groundwater can seep into the system. If the ground is saturated, this groundwater will trap the smoke and prevent it from exiting through the ground so you won't be able to locate these types of defects. Dry ground conditions and low wind are ideal conditions for smoke testing. Always have a contingency plan if weather conditions aren’t favorable on your scheduled smoke testing date.

  • Equipment and Data Collection – Consider what types and quantities of equipment you’ll need before stepping foot in the field. This includes deciding how many blowers you need, what CFM you expect the blowers to produce, what type of smoke you are going to use, and how you would like to collect the data. Not taking time to think through these questions can cause setbacks.

If you know you have an I/I issue and you are not sure how to start your smoke testing program, TREKK’s experts can help you achieve the success that you and your residents deserve. A successful smoke testing project can reduce SSOs, which will keep the sewer where it belongs, and keep the waterways in your community safe for future generations.

David Hamberlin is a wastewater industry specialist, offering expertise in all aspects of wastewater field services work. He is a NASSCO-certified trainer for LACP, MACP and PACP, and a member of NASSCO’s national Infrastructure Condition Assessment, Cross Bore and Operations and Maintenance committees.