CommunityCouncilTop Story

Seeing smoke?

By Chris Lewis Aug. 27, 2020

The Town of Paradise is going to be trying out a new way to test its sanitary sewer system.

Councillor Patrick Martin said the town is signing a contract that will see a company use smoke to identify any problems in the pipes.

Martin explained the Town already uses cameras to conduct detailed inspections of the infrastructure, which can be a costly process.

“Smoke testing is a very cost-efficient way to identify areas of concern over the whole system, so that the detailed investigation and maintenance can be scheduled,” Martin said. “It’s important to eliminate leaks across connections before extra water in the system begins pumping, increasing costs and speeding up the deterioration of the pipe.”

Martin said the process involves pumping an odourless and virtually harmless smoke into sewer manholes, allowing inspectors to record where the smoke escapes. That way, they are able to pinpoint exactly where water may eventually leak before it ever gets to that point.

The Town piloted the process back in 2019 in an area that was experiencing water issues, he added. Within hours, the issue was identified and a full subdivision was able to be assessed.

Right now, the only company in the area that does this type of inspection is BioMax.

“It’s a great investment, and we can save a lot of money in water waste costs for sure,” Martin said, going on to propose the Town enter into a contract with BioMax at a cost rate of $1,200 per day to a maximum of 25 days. Martin later clarified the process is expected to take anywhere between 15 and 20 days.

The fact that the smoke is odourless is, as Mayor Dan Bobbett observed, an important piece of the puzzle for the general public to know. He allowed that anyone happening to see smoke escaping from something, such as a pipe, understandably might become concerned.

“It could be along the side of their house, in the storm sewer, or wherever,” said the mayor. “We don’t want them to be alarmed.”

Bobbett said the smoke does not pose a threat to people’s well being. He added that, thanks to aerial drone technology, companies using this practice will be able to catch sight of the smoke rather quickly.

The smoke itself will also appear slightly different than a normal smoke emitted from a fire.

“I know Mount Pearl did it, and it was quite successful,” said Bobbett. “They discovered a bunch of cross connections in their storm sewer and normal sewer.”

Chief administrative officer Lisa Niblock noted the Town has coordinated with the crew at the Paradise Fire Station so that they are fully prepared for any phone calls they may receive from concerned residents about strange smoke.

“If we do have a leak, the amount of water that we pay the City of St. John’s to use, even if it’s an external link, this could potentially save the Town a lot of money,” Martin said.

The motion to approve the contract carried unanimously.

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