Routine Sewer Smoke Tests Cause Scare

Routine sewer system tests are causing some confusion in the City of Fort Smith. As crews use smoke for testing purposes, some residents are calling 911 thinking their neighbors are in jeopardy.

Workers use smoke testing to detect leaks and defects to the city’s sewer line.

“We’re looking for any kind of a smoke coming out of the ground that’s gonna signify either a clean out or a main line break just any kind of leak that can infill,” Roy Bass, RJN Group, Inc. said.

Crews are working along the city’s north side. If your house is connected to the sewer system, the testing may cause smoke to come out of your roof.

“There’s no safety hazards to it, it’s more alarming to a lot of residents [who] come out and see smoke coming out of the pipes and the tops of the houses and think that a house was on fire,” Bass said. “We hand out notifications informing them prior to what we do.”

Residents see this and naturally call the fire department.

“It’s kind of a nuisance, but it’s something that has to be done,” Fire Marshal Ronnie Rogers said. “We know when this smoke test is going on, but if we get calls from people and from neighbors saying they’ve got smoke coming from the people’s houses, we’re gonna have to respond because you never know.”

If you see smoke go through your vents, there are ways to mitigate it according to RJN’s crew leader.

“If it’s coming through the sink, run water, that’ll stop it and if it’s coming around the base of the commodes, a damp towel will alleviate that problem as well because it’s probably a bad wax ring,” Bass said.

Authorities say the smoke from this testing is not harmful or flammable. Weather permitting, the utility work should be complete by the end of August.

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