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Springfield Clean Water Services to Conduct Sewer 'Smoke Tests'

Homeowners should take note that if they see smoke suddenly rising from their yards, it might be part of a test.  Starting this week, Springfield Clean Water Services will be conducting “smoke tests” in area sewers.  Crews are trying to repair an aging sanitary sewer system. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe reports.

Local crews will use high capacity smoke blowers to blow a non-toxic, odorless smoke through the manholes of sanitary sewer pipes, then look for where the smoke exits.  The testing and repairs are part of a $50 million investment by the city to improve over 100 miles of sewer pipes over the next seven years.   Steve Meyer is the Director of Environmental Services for the city of Springfield, and he says the total process won’t take much time.

“They will be there and gone in about 15 to 20 minutes. What we’ll see is if it’s through the yard, we’ll see smoke come up through the yard. If the downspout is connected to the sanitary sewer, we can see smoke come out of the downspouts. So we will see…where the smoke comes out does indicate a connection or a leak in the system,” Meyer said.

The sanitary sewer systems carry waste water to water treatment facilities. Meyer says cracks in the sewer system mean big problems for local structures, streams and rivers.

“What that does is it allows extraneous water to get in, rainwater, and that overloads the system and it takes up all of the available capacity. When all that capacity is taken up, that can cause overflows or possibly even backups into buildings,” Meyer said.

Meyer says the city plans to fix 35 sub-basins within the next year, and 155 in the next 5 years. At this point, though, Meyer isn’t sure who will fix the leaks, or how the repairs will be funded.

 “There’s a number of different ways that those can be addressed. Quite frankly, I don’t think we’ll get all the leaks out. What we want to do is get the ones that are cost effective, and that’s what we’ll be looking at, is what’s the most cost effective way to do that. But we will be doing some public meetings here shortly to discuss how that gets paid for,” Meyer said.

Meyer says door hangers, signs and cones will be used to let residents know where the testing is occurring, and homeowners and businesses will be notified by the city at least 24 hours in advance.

For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.