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Important Information about Smoke Testing in Howard County

Dear Residents, 

On behalf of the Howard County Department of Public Works (DPW) Bureau of Utilities, George, Miles & Buhr, LLC (GMB) (under contract with the County) will be working on a sanitary sewer project that may be of interest to you.  Over the upcoming summer, our personnel and our sub-consultant Flow Assessment Services, LLC (FAS) will be conducting sanitary sewer smoke testing in several areas starting the week of June 27, 2016 which is expected to last through July.  The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the work and to provide you with information on it. The area to be smoke tested is in the Jessup area and is bounded generally by Snowden River Parkway to the northwest (between Broken Land Parkway and Maryland Route 175) and Anne Arundel County to the southeast with other notable roads including Interstate 95, US Route 1, and Maryland State Route 32 in the project area as shown on the accompanying project map. 

Smoke testing is a method of locating leaking sanitary sewers and illicit connections that may allow storm water to enter the sanitary sewer system.  The purpose of smoke testing is to identify and locate these points in order to repair them and prevent this “clean” water from entering the system.  Once water enters the sanitary sewer system it must be treated as wastewater at the wastewater treatment plant which increases costs and takes up capacity needed for sanitary sewage flows. 

Smoke testing is performed by isolating a section of sanitary sewer, typically 600 to 800 ft in length, and introducing smoke into the sewer using a blower.  As the smoke spreads through the isolated section, it will exit the sewer at any point that air can enter the system.  Our field personnel will note these locations and assess whether they are points at which water may enter the system.  We will be working only Monday through Friday (not on holidays) between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. 

Our personnel are looking for locations such as roof drains or storm drain inlets which may be connected to the system.  However, smoke typically exits the system via the vent pipe protruding from the roof of most homes which allows the plumbing to function properly, which should not be cause for alarm.  Also, there is the potential for this smoke to enter homes if there is faulty or leaking plumbing, or if the trap in the plumbing is not full of water.  If smoke does enter a home, the residents should not be alarmed as the smoke used is a non-toxic, non-staining type which is not harmful to people or pets and does not damage or stain clothing. 

Identifying such a leak on property is the responsibility of the homeowner and should be addressed as soon as possible due to the problem with the plumbing, 

Currently, we anticipate distributing the first door hangers on Monday June 27 and beginning the smoke testing on Tuesday June 28.  County personnel will be advised of the specific location through daily notification.  Please note that smoke testing is weather-dependent and that the schedule is likely to change over the course of the work.  We will not be smoke testing on days with rain or very windy days, as they reduce the effectiveness of the smoke testing. 

Click the links below to find project information:

 

Area Map – The project area is located in the Jessup area and is bounded generally by Snowden River Parkway to the northwest (between Broken Land Parkway and Maryland Route 175) and Anne Arundel County to the southeast with other notable roads including Interstate 95, US Route 1, and Maryland State Route 32 as shown in the accompanying figure.  Our field crews will be using mapping that is much more detailed which we can also provide if it would be of use to you.

Door Hanger – This is an informational item that will be distributed typically   one (1) to three (3) days ahead of the smoke testing operation to inform residents as to when to expect the smoke testing in their specific neighborhood.

 

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – This is a standard document providing chemical and safety information on the smoke producing agents to be used during the operation.