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JCSA conducting smoke tests of sewer lines

Date: July 23, 2009
Contact: Larry Foster, JCSA General Manager

Phone: (757) 253-6806



Over the next several weeks, the James City Service Authority (JCSA) will conduct Smoke Testing of its sanitary sewer system.  Smoke Testing is used to identify sections of sewers which may exhibit inflow (stormwater entering the sanitary sewer system) during rainfall.  Inflow sources are roof leaders, cellars, yard and area drains, foundation drains, abandoned building sewers, faulty connections, illegal connections, and stormwater drainage system cross connections.  It can also detect structural damages and leaking joints in sewer pipes and overflow points in sewer systems.

What is a Smoke Test?

Contractor personnel, identified by highway safety vests labeled JCSA, place a smoke blower over manholes and smoke is blown through the sewer system.  Anywhere the smoke exits, there is potential for stormwater to enter the sewer system.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for the Smoke Testing?

Residents will be notified at least one week prior to smoke testing.  You may want to run your water for 30 seconds or so in commonly unused plumbing fixtures which would refill traps under sinks, bathtubs, etc. and prevent smoke from appearing in your home.


Is the smoke hazardous?
NO!  The smoke that comes out of the vent stacks on houses or holes in the ground is non-toxic, harmless, and has no odor.  It does not create a fire hazard.


What if smoke appears in my house?
Smoke should not appear in your house; however, if it does, it could mean there is a dry trap under your sink, bathtub, etc. or you have defective plumbing.  You may want to contact a plumber.


What if smoke comes out of my yard or driveway?
This could mean that there is a drain on the property which is connected to the house sewer line instead of the storm system.  It could also mean that there is not direct connection, but that the lateral has breaks or cracks in the pipe that drain runoff after it has entered into the soil.


If there is smoke in my yard, does that mean the cause of the leak needs to be dug up?
In a worst-case scenario, yes, but there are many other solutions, such as disconnecting the drain or lining a portion of the house lateral without an excavation.


Do I need to be home when the Smoke Testing is performed?
No.  Contractor personnel will not need to enter your home.  They will record the testing, take photos and measure distances so the defects can be documented for future repairs.


What should I do if I discover smoke when I return home?
Please contact the James City Service Authority at (757) 253-6800 (after hours 566-0112).

For more information or questions regarding the Smoke Testing project, call JCSA’s Chief Engineer for Wastewater at (757) 253-6810 or visit



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