Work to line old wastewater lines creates smell, but is considered safe

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 2, 2015

EXTENDed LIFESPAN: Work underway within the city of Picayune to line aging wastewater lines with a styrene substance will give the system up to 50 years of more life. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

EXTENDed LIFESPAN: Work underway within the city of Picayune to line aging wastewater lines with a styrene substance will give the system up to 50 years of more life.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Work crews are well into efforts to line the many wastewater pipes in the city of Picayune’s first basin, but recently some residents have expressed concern with the smell the work has produced.
Pearl River County Utility Authority engineers Brooks Wallace and Vernon Moore said calls have come in within the past week and are typically being experienced within older homes for a variety of reasons.
Just like issues experienced with the smoke testing, most of the residents that notice a smell may be living in a home with an inadequate vent or trap, which is allowing the odor to enter the home from the wastewater lines. Newer homes that were built to current building codes should not experience a problem.
There are ways to ensure the smell does not come into the home.
Suncoast Infrastructure Inc. Project Manager Daniel Harris said while the smell associated with the work is not a danger to residents, they can help ensure the smell remains outside by adding water to any sewer traps that have not been used in a while, such as an unused toilet or laundry room drain.
If the smell does intrude the home, it can be easily removed by opening the windows for a short time, Harris said.
Harris assures affected residents the smell is not harmful. A product called styrene is used to line aging pipes, giving them up to 50 years of additional life, Harris said. A study conducted in 2001 to determine the levels of styrene concentrations during the installation determined the levels people could be exposed to during a typical and worst case scenario situation.
During the testing for the study, which was conducted in Ontario, Canada, it was determined that in a typical situation the level of styrene contamination in a home with a working trap and vent was below .0002 parts per million, while homes in a worst case scenario with a faulty vent or trap came in at .1 or .2 parts per million, Harris said.
For comparison, workers standing over the open manhole while installing the liner are exposed to styrene levels of 3.2 parts per million. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration website lists safe levels of styrene exposure to be 100 parts per million, meaning in a worst case scenario a resident is exposed to 500 times less styrene than the Department of Labor advises is safe, Harris said.
The study found that if the odor does penetrate the home it could remain for up to two days, but Harris said by opening the windows the smell could be evacuated sooner.
Residents will be alerted prior to when crews will be in their area through the use of door hangers. Harris advises residents to be sure their trap is not dry by adding water to drains that are not used regularly to reduce the smell.
Additionally, residents are asked that while the work is ongoing, to minimize the amount of water used. While the pipes are being lined a home’s lateral connection to the wastewater pipe will be blocked until the liner has cured and then cut. Wallace said that so long as residents avoid taking a lot of showers, baths or washing numerous loads of laundry, the system should not back up into a home.
Once cuts are made through the liner to the lateral connection, residents can return to their normal level of water usage, Harris said.
If anyone has questions about the work or would like a copy of the study referenced in this article they can send an email to Harris at

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