This summer, the City of Sumner will be conducting tests of the sanitary sewers throughout the city.  These tests involve blowing harmless “smoke” into the sewer to find where unwanted storm water enters the sewer.  As a result, you may see “smoke” coming from roof vents, building foundations, manhole covers and various other areas.  This is normal and not a cause for alarm.  The smoke should not enter your home or business if your building has proper plumbing and ventilation and the water traps contain water.

Where and when will the test occur?

The process is quick and testing of your section of pipe will be completed in approximately one hour. Testing crews will be in and out of your neighborhood in one day.

The City has hired JMJ Team to conduct these tests. As they move through the city, they will place door hangers on residences within the week of the testing to give you a reminder. They will also try to make contact with each business. For large businesses with big yards, they may talk with you about access to manholes to complete the testing accurately.

Is there an impact to traffic?

The process is done by blowing smoke into sections of the sewer via certain manholes.  They may periodically use traffic flaggers if they have to access a manhole in a roadway.

Is smoke testing harmful to humans, pets or furniture?

The smoke used is water-based and more like a vapor.  It leaves no residue and contains no explosive materials. The smoke is safe for humans and pets. However, if you have a chronic respiratory problem requiring oxygen, or are concerned about small pets, contact JMJ Team prior to testing at 253-307-9742.

Why would it enter my building?

It could enter for a number of reasons.

  1. Dry water traps: if you have sinks/drains/tubs, including floor drains, that you rarely use, please run water in these fixtures before the test.  That allows the water traps to fill and improves the chance that smoke does not enter your building.  If you have floor drain(s), pour 24 ounces of water into the drain to fill the trap.
  2. Normal venting: if during testing smoke is coming out of your roof plumbing vents, it’s likely your normal sewer venting and not a cause for alarm.
  3. Improper connections: if during testing smoke is coming out of gutters, your stormwater system (such as gutters) may be improperly tied into the sewer system.
  4. Broken sewers: if during testing smoke is released from the yard, there may be a break in your side sewer.  You may want to call a plumber.

You do not need to be home or present at your business during the smoke test. JMJ Team will log any smoke they observe coming from your property.  They will view only from the public right-of-way and will not enter private property.  If you know smoke enters your home, please report it to JMJ Team at 253-307-9742.



What do I do if smoke enters my home?

  1. During testing, if smoke is coming from drains, sinks, tubs, gutters or the ground, you do not need to call 911.
  2. Open your windows and pour water down drains. The smoke vapor will dissipate soon.
  3. Report to JMJ Team to make them aware of where smoke may be escaping the sewer system.
  4. Depending on how the smoke entered, it could be simply a dry water trap that needs no action or a broken sewer line that does need action. You may want to consult a professional plumber for advice.

Did you know?  Pouring water in unused drains also keeps harmful gases emitted from the sewer system from entering your home?  It is good practice to regularly pour water in unused drains.

Could it set off my smoke detectors/alarms?

There is a slight possibility that it could, but only in the case of an extreme, existing issue in your home, such as an uncapped old sewer line.  If such a situation is occurring, the alarm is the least of your worries because you likely have been letting harmful gases enter your home.

Why is the city doing all of this?

It’s good for us to know where there are breaks in the sewer line so that we can fix those on our mains, and you can fix those on your side-sewers before they become a large, disgusting mess.  The testing will also help identify where harmful sewer gasses may be escaping into our environment.

In addition, older homes sometimes improperly tie systems like gutters into the sewer line.  This means that when there are large rainstorms, relatively “clean” rain water that the stormwater system should be taking to our rivers is inundating the sewer system and our wastewater treatment facility.  Treating that additional clean water costs you, the sewer ratepayers, extra money. The more we can properly direct stormwater to the stormwater system, the best chance we have of keeping our sewer infrastructure, and sewer bill costs, lower.

Will I be required to make changes?

Right now, we’re just gathering information.  Like any code compliance issue, the more people who voluntarily fix their own properties, the better chance we have of not having to consider stronger enforcement measures.

Can you give me further details about the “smoke” used in this test?

Sure. Here’s the Scientific Evaluation of LiquiSmoke, a Summary of the Scientific Evaluation Reports Produced by Maxim Technologies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota:

During testing conducted by Maxim Technologies, the following facts concerning the smoke generated by LiquiSmoke were determined, under the guidelines set by The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

During the tests, Maxim Technologies collected a sample of the smoke generated by LiquiSmoke in a charcoal tube. The sample was sent to the Wisconsin Occupational Health Laboratory. A GC Solvent Scan was conducted to determine if the smoke generated by LiquiSmoke formed any hazardous compounds or conditions. The GC Solvent Scan searched for 107 different hazardous organic compounds. Of the 107 items listed, only .01 parts per million (ppm) petroleum distillates was found. The OSHA permissible Exposure Limit is 500 ppm.

Further testing by Maxim Technologies found that the ambient carbon monoxide levels were found to be zero. NIOSH regulations have determined that the “8 hour time weighted average” (TWA) for carbon monoxide to be 35 ppm. During the duration of the test, measurable TWA levels of LiquiSmoke ranged from 4.6 to 7.8 ppm – within the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) set by OSHA.

Maxim Technologies also tested for carbon dioxide levels. Ambient levels were found to be at 330 ppm. The level of carbon dioxide during the entire LiquiSmoke test was determined to be 500 ppm. The OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) is 5,000 ppm.

In addition, testing by Maxim Technologies was also performed to determine if usage of the product left any staining or odor. Residual staining and odor tests were conducted in a closed facility filled with LiquiSmoke. Time interval testing of filter paper samples exposed to LiquiSmoke were examined under a microscope at 40X magnification. In all cases, no visible staining was present, along with no odor on any of the filter papers exposed to the smoke.

This summary is based on complete reports from Maxim Technologies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Copies of these tests, as well as the findings of the Wisconsin Occupational Health Laboratory, are available from Hurco Technologies, Inc.

Categories: Around Town