Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study Smoke Testing

Sewer Service Overview
Newport News provides sanitary sewer services to approximately 185,700 people within its municipal limits. Newport News plans, designs, builds, operates, and maintains the sanitary sewer system. The sanitary sewer system is comprised of 172 sewer pumping stations, approximately 658 miles of gravity sewer lines, approximately 14,500 manholes, and 40 miles of sewer force mains.
The sanitary sewer system conveys wastewater to the Boat Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant or the James River Wastewater Treatment Plant operated by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

Consent Order Purpose
The city of Newport News has entered into a Special Order by Consent (Consent Order) with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ), the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), well as 12 other Hampton Roads localities, including:
  • Chesapeake
  • Gloucester
  • Hampton
  • Isle of Wight
  • James City County
  • Poquoson
  • Portsmouth
  • Smithfield
  • Suffolk
  • Virginia Beach
  • Williamsburg
  • York County
The purpose of this Consent Order is to reduce the occurrence of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) in the sanitary sewer system.

Sewer Inspection Program
As part of the Consent Order, the city has implemented a program to inspect the sanitary sewer system for structural integrity as well as capacity issues and maintenance issues that may negatively impact performance. These assessment activities include manhole inspections, lateral inspections, closed-circuit television (CCTV) inspections, smoke testing, dye testing, and night flow isolation.

Smoke Testing
Smoke testing is conducted as part of the evaluations in areas suspected to have inflow problems. Smoke testing is an economical and relatively fast method for identifying the location of inflow sources such as structural damage in sewer pipes or manholes and cross connections including roof leaders, foundation drains, yard drains, storm sewers, and undocumented / illegal connections.

Smoke testing is conducted to help determine which gravity sewer system components may require additional assessment through dyed water testing, CCTV inspections, and manhole inspections.

Required for Smoke Testing
A residential / commercial notification plan is executed prior to all smoke testing. This plan includes the distribution of a letter and FAQ (PDF) to residents. Personnel performing smoke testing are well trained in all required notification and complaint procedures, and are capable of dealing with residents or building representatives who discover smoke in their homes or buildings.

Residents do not need to be home during the testing, but it may be a good idea to leave several windows partially open for ventilation, should any smoke enter the building.

Possible Issues
Private properties may have several connections to the sanitary sewer system such as downspouts, floor drains and sump pumps. If these become clogged or blocked, they could cause problems. Additionally, defects can allow toxic fumes and wastewater to seep up into the residence itself.

Technical Information
For more technical information regarding the smoke to be used for the testing, you can review the Material Safety Data Sheet (PDF).
Private Property Drawing