A company contracted by Van Buren Municipal Utilities soon will begin smoke testing sewer lines throughout the city.
RJN Group is expected to begin smoke testing of 380,000 linear feet and closed circuit televising of 100,000 linear feet of sewer lines in Van Buren, said Steve Dufresne, Van Buren Municipal Utilities director.
Workers are using the smoke to check for leaks along sewer lines, Dufresne said. A tentative start date for the project has been set for Sept. 2 and will begin in the south part of town, he said.
Testers will use a "non-toxic smoke that creates no fire hazard and leaves no visible residue," Dufresne said. However, the smoke could potentially set off smoke alarms, he said.
While utilities personnel plan to notify customers about testing, they still are expecting the fire and police departments to receive some calls about the smoke, Dufresne said.
"People are going to see smoke come out up out of the ground or someone’s roof vent" and think there’s some kind of emergency, Dufresne said.
Smoke coming from a roof vent is a sign of properly working plumbing, Dufresne said. But there is the possibility of smoke getting into a home or building, which is when the resident or owner should be concerned, he said.
"Normally if smoke does enter it indicates a problem in the plumbing," Dufresne said. "If smoke is getting into a building, it most likely means sewer gas is too."
If someone sees smoke coming from a drain or somewhere else in their home or building, they should pour water down the drain and call the utilities department and RJN Group, Dufresne said. Residents will be provided a number for both, he said.
If a call is received about smoke in a building, the contractor will stop smoke testing immediately until the problem is isolated, Dufresne said.
Handouts notifying residents of the testing will be sent out with utility bills in September, and neighborhoods where testing is occurring will be notified daily, Dufresne said.
The testing project is a result of a consent administrative order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality mandating that Van Buren develop and submit a Sewer System Evaluation Study with the overall goal of eliminating sanitary sewer overflows.
Smoke testing is just one part of the project and will take about three months, Dufresne said. The testing will cost the city about $430,000, he said.
Flow monitoring devices already have been placed in 13 separate manholes and in waste water pumping stations, Dufresne said. The flow capacity of Van Buren’s sewer and water lines is being evaluated to determine how much rainwater is infiltrating the system, a possible source of flooding, he said.
A complete study is due in July 2014, and will cost the city a total of about $1 million, Dufresne said. Van Buren is paying for the costs with water and sewer revenues, he said.
For more information, contact Van Buren Municipal Utilities at (479) 474-5067.