Sanitary Sewer Smoke Testing

Last updated on May 05, 2021

A photo of a smoke testing device on greeen grass pumping smoke into a sanitary sewer manhole.

In an effort to provide efficient wastewater collection and treatment within the City of Orlando, The Water Reclamation Division proactively and periodically smoke test sanitary sewer systems to identify deficiencies and cross connections.

During smoke testing, constituents will notice crews, vehicles and equipment working within the public right-of-way. It is not uncommon to notice crews and vehicles leave and return frequently.

Smoke testing can take up to 1-2 weeks. Please be advised, adverse weather and unforeseen circumstances can create delays prolonging testing.

Why This Test is Commonly Used

This routine, preventative maintenance test will help identify leaks, defects and stormwater inflows in the sewer system, thereby improving wastewater treatment operations and efficiency.

What to Expect

While smoke can be expected to be visible coming out of manhole covers and vent stacks in roofs, it should not enter homes. To reduce the likelihood of smoke entering a building, the city recommends that you pour 2-3 gallons of water into seldom-used sinks and floor drains, where the smoke could arise due to lack of water pressure. This may be done at any time prior to the test.

How the Test Works 

The test consists of forcing safe, vegetable-oil-derived smoke into the sewer lines and observing where it escapes to determine the location of leaks and defects. Odorless and safe, the smoke leaves no residuals or stains and has no adverse effect on people, plants or animals.

If Problems are Found

The city may notify you upon completion of the project if there are any problems found on your property.

Special Requests

While smoke testing is safe, residents with heart or respiratory conditions may contact City of Orlando Dispatch at 407.246.2213 or 407.246.3798 between the hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to inquire about testing schedules and have a call ahead placed, only if needed.  

Sanitary Sewer smoke testing is typically non-intrusive. Constituents do not need to be home once testing occurs. The smoke used is non-toxic and odorless. During testing, smoke should not enter a resident’s home or place or place of business. However, should this occur, this means the constituents may have a potential plumbing issues on their property. The city recommends the constituent contact a plumber of his or her choice at their convenience. Smoke testing can take 1-2 weeks to complete. 

Q: Who should I contact for questions before, during, or after smoke testing?

Please contact the city’s Water Reclamation Division, their number is 407.246.2213. Feel free to speak with city staff who will be in the area during smoke testing and are willing and able to assist you with questions you may have.

Q: Should residents prepare homes and businesses for this?

Before testing, the city recommends running water for a few seconds at each plumbing fixture (toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, etc.).

Q: Does someone need to be home for this? 

No. No one needs to be home during smoke testing.

Q: How long will the testing take?

Smoke testing takes about 15 minutes.

Q: Is smoke testing safe for people, pets, and plants?

Yes. The process is safe. The smoke used is non-toxic, non-staining, and odorless. A person, animal, or plant that comes in contact with testing material will not be in danger.

Q: What can I expect or what will I see if smoke happens to enter my home or place of business?

Should smoke enter your home or business, it will come from a plumbing fixture (toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, etc.). The smoke takes about five to ten minutes to dissipate. During testing, smoke should not enter a home. However, if it does, this means the homeowner may have a potential plumbing problem on their property. The city recommends the homeowner calls a plumber at their convenience. Repairs made by the city will only occur in the public right-of-way.

Q: Has the city ever done testing like this before?

Yes. The city’s Public Works Department conducts an in-house test like this on a smaller scale.

Q: Why is the city using this method?

Smoke testing is cost-effective and efficient when trying to identify potential concerns in our sewer systems. If we were to use an alternate method like TV inspection, it could take months, maybe even years to complete such a task. In addition to an increase in duration, the city would also incur an increase in cost.

Q: What are the industry standards for smoke testing?

Smoke testing is used extensively by utilities throughout the US to pinpoint problem areas. It is a quick and easy way to find potential areas of concern. Other cities in Florida also use smoke testing.