Smoke testing to begin in Picayune

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 28, 2015

Beginning in early April homeowners will be alerted to some smoke testing that may be a nuisance for those with faulty sewer systems and breathing issues.

The work will be part of a $6 million contract with the Utility Authority and Suncoast Infrastructure to video, repair and line aging sewer lines within Picayune.

Suncoast Superintendent Stephen Rickler said the issue at hand deals with smoke testing. Smoke testing involves attaching a fan to the top of a manhole in a sewer system, which blows a special oil based smoke inside. The aim is to locate holes and leaks as the smoke escapes leaks within the system. If the ground is dry the smoke can even identify leaks underground. 

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However, at times the testing could push the smoke into a home if the sewer system has leaks due to dry rotted components. While the smoke is generally harmless, it could cause problems for people with breathing conditions, said Vernon Moore with Dungan Engineering. If the smoke does enter the home, it can be easily removed by opening the windows and airing out the home.

However, that discovery could be beneficial for homeowners. If smoke can enter the home, then that means sewer gases that build up in sewer systems could also be entering the home, posing a health risk, Ricker said.

Testing will begin on April 6 in the basin located west of U.S. 11 in the historic side of downtown Picayune. After that section is complete the work will move to the other side of U.S. 11.

Utility Authority Operations Director Alan Howe said the work will start on the older side of town because it needs the most work. 

Ricker said it should take about two weeks to finish the first basin.

The entire scope of the work entails videoing lines in the system to locate areas of damage and fix emergencies. More than ten manholes covered by asphalt have already been discovered in the video process. They will be uncovered and raised as part of the work.

The final stage of the work will include lining aging lines with a special polymer that will give the old sewer lines another 20 to 30 years of life. 

“The system is in dire need of repair, but not past the point of being able to be repaired,” Ricker said.

A delay may occur if rain drenches the soil. Rickler said when the soil is wet smoke can’t penetrate the ground to identify problems.

Lining the pipes was chosen as an option due to it’s relatively low cost when compared to replacing lines. Ricker said it costs about $25 a foot to line an aging sewer line, while replacing the same length of line starts at $150, provided other repairs are not required.

Before an area is smoke tested, Suncoast staff will alert the people in the area with door hangers and other forms of notification.

The first basin, which is the largest in need of repair, entails about 45,000 feet of sewer line. Moore said the entire project aims to video and line a total of 190,000 feet of sewer lines.