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The City is Testing Sanitary Sewers in the West Side

Two Phases: Manhole Inspection & Sewer Smoke Testing Begins Oct. 8


The City is testing its sanitary sewer system to identify faulty lines or connections where water runoff from rain or snow melts may enter the system or where sewer gases may escape. The testing is required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and includes two phases: Manhole Inspection and Smoke Testing. The testing will take place on the west side of the City. A map of the area to be tested is on the City website. All affected residences and businesses have been notified. Signs also will be posted in the neighborhoods being tested.

Sanitary Sewer Testing Information and Schedule

Manhole Inspections – Oct. 8, 2018 to Oct. 19, 2018

Manholes are inspected with 360-degree imaging. There will be no interruption to sanitary sewer service during the test. Residents may notice the contractor’s vans parked outside and workers lowering imaging equipment into manholes. RMS Utility Services of McHenry, Ill., is the City’s contractor for this project. Some of the city owed manholes are in the backyards; crews will be entering yards to complete these inspections.  

Smoke Testing – Oct. 15, 2018 to Oct. 26, 2018

Smoke testing pushes air combined with liquid smoke into sewer lines to disclose the location of leaks and faulty connections to the sanitary sewer system. The smoke is non-toxic, and safe for humans and pets. It is similar to the special effects smoke used in concerts and haunted houses. During the test, smoke may be seen coming from vent stacks on the roof and out of the ground.

Smoke will not enter homes or buildings unless the plumbing is defective or drain traps are dry. The smoke has no odor, is non-toxic, non-staining, does not create a fire hazard, and will dissipate in a few minutes. Pouring water into any floor drains and into any unused sinks prior to the test will seal the drain traps so smoke will not enter through the drains.

The City has contracted with EEI, Engineering of Sugar Grove, Ill., and RMS Utility Services of McHenry, Ill., to perform the smoke testing.

“We appreciate everyone’s cooperation during the sanitary sewer assessment process,” said Environmental Services Manager Tim Wilson. “While we have notified businesses and residents in the neighborhoods to be tested, we ask residents to help us get the word out, especially to elderly neighbors. We want to be sure people are aware of the testing so they are not alarmed by the smoke.”

Why Test the Sanitary Sewer Lines for Faults?

  • Reduce Inconvenient Sanitary Sewer Backups - When a significant amount of ground water flows into the sanitary sewer system through faulty lines, it can overwhelm system capacity and cause sanitary sewer backups.
  • Eliminate Unnecessary Wastewater Treatment - All water in sanitary sewer lines is treated at the City’s wastewater plant. Significant amounts of groundwater flowing into the sanitary sewer mains can lead to millions of gallons of water being treated unnecessarily.
  • Identify Location of Sanitary Sewer Gas Leaks – Faulty sanitary sewer mains or connections could allow sewer gases to escape.

If you have any questions regarding the manhole inspections or smoke testing, call St. Charles Public Works Department at 630.377.4405. More information about the sanitary sewer inspection and assessment project is on the City website.

During the test, smoke may be seen coming from vent stacks on the roof and out of the ground.

updated Nov 06, 2018