Saline Sewers To Be Smoke Tested


Any smoke that might come out of the drains of Saline’s homes and businesses between August 30 and November 15 might very well be coming from the city itself. The city is going to “be conducting a physical survey of the Saline sanitary sewer system” the city said in a press release, Monday.

What this means is that the city will be opening manholes and releasing smoke throughout the pipes that connect down to it and looking for smoke that goes astray. If they can see smoke going the wrong way, they’ll be able to identify what has broken were and be then able to fix it.

“This process is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to locate defects in the main sewer line and service laterals that connect to a residence,” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said in the press release. “With wet weather coming this fall and winter, we want to make sure our sanitary sewer systems are not overturned when there is extra water and runoff in the line.”

They will be utilizing smoke through the various pipes under the city to look for cracks or holes before the wet and cold of winter comes in. The city is of course encouraging people to be cautious whenever smoke is detected; but the city says that it is possible that a “dry drain trap or some plumbing defect” could cause the smoke to enter private property.

Crews will be on call if smoke is detected. The city manager said that anyone who notices smoke on their property and is concerned can flag down the crews and inform them.

“This is a technology that I was not particularly familiar with prior to speaking with the City Manager about it, but I think it is a worthwhile and valuable initiative,” Mayor Brian Marl said, adding he hoped the process “is useful in making necessary repairs and upgrades to our municipal sewer system.”

The nine week process will start in the southernmost part of Saline, according to a map released by the city. Although tentatively scheduled, the city will start testing in the southernmost neighborhoods. When the smoke testing begins on August 30, the plan is to spend the first three weeks testing sewers south of Michigan Avenue.

Smoke Testing Map Plan. Image Credit: City of Saline

The city will then skip over Michigan Avenue to test the lines in and around city hall. The reason that they are skipping the main drag sewer line underneath Michigan Avenue until the fifth week is to coordinate with the Michigan Department of Transportation for permits to be able to access the manholes on that state route. City Engineer Jeff Fordice said that that process is ongoing.

Weeks six through nine will be spent testing most of the remaining neighborhoods north of Michigan Avenue. Not all of the city’s sewers are going to be tested in this way. Fordice said this step is a follow up to an early rainfall study that found that some city sewers on the peripheries did not have enough issues with “inflow and infiltration” to warrant the smoke test.

“The areas that are not getting smoke tested are newer areas of the city. But there are some new areas within the smoke testing limits that showed a decent amount of inflow and infiltration in the first study, so we’re following up. It’s a little bit of an unexpected result that Wildwood was in an area with stormy spots,” Fordice said. “We’ll go in, test and find out why.”

Fordice said “it’s to early” to speculate why newer parts of Saline’s sewer system are having inflow and infiltration issues when they are as new as they are.

Headline image credit: Salty Summer Sounds

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