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Smoke Testing - 2023 Update


In an effort to provide a safe, economical, efficient, and environmentally sound sanitary sewer system throughout the City of Decatur, Decatur Utilities periodically performs smoke testing of its sewer system. This year's 2023 testing will begin on September 5th and last for several weeks

NOTE: Customers in areas where smoke testing is being conducted will be notified directly prior to testing. Notification Flyer in English; Notification Flyer in Spanish.


Here’s how it works. 


All emergency personnel, including the Fire Department, as well as the affected customers are notified before smoke testing begins.


Authorized crews from Video Industrial Services will use a device to inject smoke into a sewer manhole, then watch to see if smoke escapes through the ground or through storm drains indicating the presence of damaged pipe or cross-connection.


Crews will note the location of the problem and schedule repairs. Note: We only schedule repairs to DU’s sewer mains and portions of the sewer service up to the Right of Way. 


If the homeowner’s system is properly tied into the DU sewer system, smoke will come out of the homeowner’s vent pipe. If no smoke comes out, that may indicate a problem in the homeowner’s system. 


DU’s goal is to keep storm water out of our sewer lines. When storm water or ground water enters the sewer system through damaged pipes or mistaken connections from storm water sources, it takes up valuable capacity in our sewer lines – especially during heavy rain. 


One common problem discovered in smoke testing is homeowner’s broken clean-out caps. When the clean-out cap is damaged, storm water and debris can come into DU’s sewer lines. 


Smoke test also benefits the customer by alerting them to dangers such as uncapped sewage lines which could allow sewer gases to enter the home.  The customer is responsible for repairs to their own plumbing system.


It is important to note that the smoke used for smoke testing is safe and non-toxic.


You can find technical data for the smoke used in smoke testing at .

Official Notice mailed to customers in the affected area:

This is to inform you that Video Industrial Services, a certified contractor for Decatur Utilities, will be smoke testing the sanitary sewer system in your area in the coming weeks.


Why This Testing Method is Used
This test is part of our continuing effort to provide a safe, economical, efficient, and environmentally sound sanitary sewer system throughout the City of Decatur. The smoke testing method is a proven and effective means of identifying problem areas within the sewer system. Eliminating defects and improper connections will help Decatur Utilities remain in compliance with state and federal regulatory agencies regarding sanitary sewer overflows.

How Smoke Testing Works
This test consists of dispersing smoke into the sewer lines and manholes in order to identify defects in the sewer mains where groundwater or storm water may be entering the system. This smoke is odorless and safe, leaving no residues, stains, and having no adverse effect on people, animals, or plants.


What to Expect
As the smoke is dispersed into the sewer system, the smoke will penetrate up through the ground and can be seen coming from roof vents, building foundations, catch basins, clean-outs, down spouts, broken sewer laterals, or manhole covers. Smoke should not enter your home or business if it is properly plumbed, vented, and the drain traps contain water. Additionally, affected customers should expect to receive notification from our contractor (Video Industrial Services), via door hanger, two (2) days prior to when the smoke testing will begin in your area.

Important Notice to Residents
Water can evaporate from unused plumbing fixtures. If you have a bathroom, plumbing fixture, or basement floor drain that is not used or is seldom used, please pour at least two gallons of water into these fixtures the day before the scheduled smoke testing.


If Problems are Found
It is normal for the smoke to discharge from the plumbing vents on your roof. However, if your plumbing is faulty or drains traps are dry, the smoke may enter your house through your plumbing. Smoke coming from holes in the ground or out of your down spouts are not normal and is considered a defect or an improper connection. In the event that smoke does enter your building, please open all windows and doors to allow for proper ventilation until the smoke has cleared. Please advise a representative of the smoke testing crew or Decatur Utilities in the event that smoke enters your building. All smoke testing discoveries shall be photographed and documented. Decatur Utilities
will contact the property owners if a defect or improper connection is located on private property.


Special Requests
While smoke testing is safe, residents who have special needs, concerns, or questions, please contact Garrett Bodine at (256) 552-1487 or Brad Irwin at (256) 552-1483. 


Additional Information
Your presence at your home or business is not required. Pets should be considered during the day of the test, if they must be left unattended, make sure that proper ventilation is provided. Pets may also become frightened if smoke enters the house.


All Fire, Police, Emergency Medical, and City of Decatur Officials have been notified of this work.

Notification Flyer in Spanish.

Current Testing Area

Smoke testing area - 9/25/23

Video Industrial Services/Underground Consultants, an authorized DU contractor, will be smoke testing the sanitary sewer system in the area shown above, weather permitting.


Please expect this smoke to migrate to the nearby areas, alleyways, and side roads not mentioned.


Smoke used in the process is non-toxic and its appearance is a normal part of the testing process. 

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