Smoke Testing Helps Georgia County Identify Sewer Lines in Need of Repair

The DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management (DWM) recently completed 400 miles of sewer pipe smoke testing, and identified public and private lines in need of repair.

The smoke testing of sewer lines is one type of required assessment outlined in DeKalb County’s 2011 federal Consent Decree.  In this test, a nontoxic smoke is inserted in section of sewer pipe.  If smoke escapes through the ground, it indicates a breach in the sewer pipe.  In addition, the test also detects breaches in private laterals, stormwater tie-ins, and any other situation that allows either stormwater to get into the system or wastewater to leak out of the system.

“This field data not only helps us rehabilitate and repair the public sewer lines, but also identifies issues in privately-owned sewer lateral pipes that contribute to sewer spills and overflows,” said DWM Deputy Director Margaret Tanner.  “As we repair the public system, we must notify businesses and homeowners about the issues we have found on the private lateral lines.”

In November, DWM sent 1,290 notifications to homeowners and businesses in the areas of Decatur, Stone Mountain, Clarkston, Tucker and Avondale Estates.  In December, DWM sent 808 additional notifications to customers in Doraville, unincorporated residents near the city of Atlanta and a few individual notifications to customers in the Decatur area.

The initial smoke testing in the area of Brookhaven is currently in the final stages and is scheduled to be substantially complete by the end of December.  DWM anticipates sending out letters in mid to late January for the Brookhaven area and other areas of the county that have not previously been tested.

Each notification contains a description of the issue and instructions on how the property owner should proceed with repairs.  The issues typically range from irrigation connections into the public sewer, compromised private laterals, compromised cleanout caps, or issues where stormwater runoff is illegally routed into the sewer system.  All of these issues allow rainwater to enter the sewer system and reduce the capacity for sewage.  In turn, these rain events cause sewer overflows, which pose a public health threat.

“Maintaining the public sewer system is in everyone’s best interest and we will need to work together to ensure the integrity of the system,” said Tanner. “This includes coordination with the cities that own and maintain their own stormwater systems and that enforce storm connections in their jurisdictions.”

DeKalb will continue to test and monitor the sewer lines throughout the county as a standard ongoing process.  As such, additional notifications will be sent as more data is collected and reviewed from testing. The process from testing to notification can take months as additional information may be necessary to ensure an accurate and complete assessment.

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