In the days of the Wild West, U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon might have ordered his Dodge City deputies to light their torches and “smoke out” the outlaw gang holed up in the old barn.
But those days are gone and Miss Kitty is just a memory. Yet 1 1/2 centuries later the smoke has lingered and Cleveland Utilities is now carrying the torch.
The barn has been replaced by CU’s miles and miles of sewer line. The deputies are CU technicians and Utility Technologies contractors. And the outlaws are cracks and defects in aging utility sewer mains that are allowing unwanted water to seep into the underground system.
The smoke is still just smoke ... only slightly modernized.
And Marshall Dillon is now Greg Clark, manager of Wastewater Rehabilitation for Cleveland Utilities.
Continuing with the $30 million Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment project, known to CU insiders and the utility’s 30,000 customers as SCOPE 10, Marshall Dillon ... er ... Marshall Clark ... Clark has announced the next lineup of streets and neighborhoods for smoke testing.
“Crews will resume smoke testing this week, weather-permitting,” Clark said. “The smoke testing will occur in these locations in the order that they are listed.”
Dodge City is not among the listed. But those streets and neighborhoods that are include: Westside Drive, Raven Drive, Vista Drive, Clingan Ridge Drive, Guthrie Street, Key Street, Terrace Avenue, Crown Street, Travis Street, Peerless Road, Davis Drive, Woodmore Lane, Glenmore Drive, Greenwood Trail, Parkwood Trail, Wendell Lane, Greenridge Road, Cookdale Trail, Crestview Drive, Maple Drive, Hilltop Drive, Keith Street, 25th Street, Sahara Drive, Raider Drive, Peerless Crossing, Harris Circle and Edgewater Drive.
Prior to the start of smoke testing in specific neighborhoods, Cleveland Utilities makes announcements through area news media outlets and also distributes leaflets at homes in the affected areas. The fliers explain the smoke-testing process and what area residents and homeowners can expect.
In one section, the flier describes the type of smoke used and any health conditions it can affect if it gets into a home.
“You can expect to see smoke escape through vent stacks on the roof of your home or business,” the CU leaflet cites. “This is a sign that the building’s plumbing is properly installed.”
Of the smoke, it points out, “The smoke being used is made specifically for this purpose. It appears white and has a slight odor of mineral oil. It is not a fire hazard and leaves no residue. The smoke is non-toxic, but may cause minor throat irritation if inhaled in quantity. Therefore, persons with respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis should leave their residence if smoke should enter their home.”
CU invites area residents in impacted neighborhoods to contact the utility or the Utility Technologies project manager (Brad Miller at 423-584-3529) if they have questions. Residents may also contact the CU Water Division at 423-478-9387. Once crews are working in their neighborhoods, residents are also invited to approach workers to address concerns, ask questions or to request proper identification, Clark explained.
Clark said the local utility regrets any inconveniences to area residents during the smoke-testing period.
“That’s why we work to get out the word and to keep the community aware of what we’re doing, and most importantly, why we’re doing it,” Clark stressed.
SCOPE 10 aims to investigate CU’s entire sewer system to hopefully eliminate, or at the very least to drastically reduce, Inflow & Infiltration and any future threats of overflows, residential backups or even damage to the wastewater treatment plant caused by excessive water intake.
At its launch about nine months ago, SCOPE 10 was thought to cost some $14 million to $15 million; however, once technicians and CU crews began their work, it became evident the severity of damage in older sections of the sewer system was extensive. Budget estimates, also impacted by rising costs of materials, quickly rose to almost $30 million.
Cleveland Utilities launched the aggressive SCOPE 10 initiative in order to protect its NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit. If the utility is found to be in violation of its permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and the federal-level Environmental Protection Agency, it could lead to penalties.
One penalty could be a sewer moratorium on future connections to the existing wastewater system until violations have been corrected. Such a moratorium would hinder future construction and economic development.
CU hopes to pay for much of the vast sewer rehabilitation program through a series of smaller 4.5 percent and 5 percent wastewater rate hikes through Fiscal Year 2020. The increases would begin in FY 2014 if approved by the Cleveland City Council.
Other Tennessee cities like Nashville, Brentwood, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Oak Ridge are facing single-year sewer rate hikes ranging from 50 to 330 percent in order to comply with EPA mandates.