Harrisonburg begins annual test of sewer system with smoke

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Over the next couple months, the City of Harrisonburg will conduct an annual check of its sewer system for cracks and leaks.

To do this, a fan forces smoke into a manhole cover and through underground lines.

"It creates vortexes in the sewer system and if there's any openings, cracks or defects, it'll come out," said James Fultz, the Sanitary Sewer Manager for the city's utilities department.

Crews conducting the test then mark off locations where smoke can be seen coming from the ground with pink flags.

The reason for the test, according to public utilities employee, is to check for places where rainwater may seep into the system.

Tests are conducted each year on roughly one out of every ten city streets, Fultz said.

During a test, smoke may be seen coming out of a toilet, sink or bathtub used sparingly. The city said the smoke is non-toxic and will not leave stains and that pouring a gallon of water down your drains can help to prevent this from happening.

"But we do recommend if somebody has respiratory challenges to maybe leave their home and then to let the smoke clears," said Fultz.

If smoke does enter a home or business, it can be a sign of a plumbing defect, according to the city. Homeowners are urged to contact a qualified plumber if this happens.

Smoke appearing from rooftop vents, however, is an indication of a properly-installed plumbing system.

The tests are expected to last through November and are usually performed around this time of year because of the typically drier weather.