Cleveland Utilities is just blowing smoke ... but it’s for a good reason. Really!
As previously announced, the local utility’s periodic Sewer System Evaluation Plan is under way and has already uncovered 28 defects ... so far ... where outside (referred to as “unauthorized”) water is infiltrating the sewer system. Allowing the infiltration to go unabated could cause an unnecessary load on CU’s wastewater treatment plant and potentially create sanitary sewer overflows, said Craig Mullinax, manager, Water Division.
Mullinax made his preliminary report to members of the Cleveland Utilities Board Thursday in a monthly gathering at Mountainview Inn.
“We will complete our entire (sewer) system this summer,” he said. “We think we have been very successful so far ... we feel like we have some inflow issues.”
The smoke tests are in their early stages so it is expected more defects will be found. Mullinax stressed that outside water infiltration becomes an even bigger issue during periods of heavy rains because storm water can cause sewer system overflow.
He showed photographs of some of the defect discoveries. Their size and volume of infiltration range from small to extremely large. One photograph showed water flowing into one end of a culvert, but not coming out the other end because it is entering the sewer system under the bridge. This breach is the biggest one found so far.
In the testing, non-toxic smoke is forced into sewer lines, one neighborhood at a time. Residents should not be concerned if they see smoke rising from their rooftop sewer vents. Mullinax said this is normal. However, if it is seen coming from inside vents, sinks, tubs, basins, showers and other drains, then this is a sign that homeowners could have faulty or aged plumbing under their houses.
Inside smoke should be reported immediately to the CU testing crew in the area or by calling 423-478-9387 or 423-478-9393. Greg Clark, representing CU’s Engineering Department, said residents or building occupants should locate, identify and correct any interior areas where the testing smoke is seen.
CU will notify residents by local radio station announcements about neighborhoods and areas that are scheduled to be tested. The 911 emergency center will also be notified. Smoke testing cannot be conducted during certain weather conditions so previously announced plans could be delayed.
CU crews conducting the tests will wear photo identification badges, uniforms and drive vehicles identified with the CU seal. Crew members will not request entry into private homes, but will be available during the testing to assist residents and answer their questions.