Waterline Renewal Technologies

DeKalb County’s Sewer Overflow and Smoke Testing Advisory


DeKalb County recently completed 400 miles of sewer pipe smoke testing and identified public and private lines in need of repair. The smoke testing of sewer lines is one type of required assessment outlined in the federal Consent mandate which was imposed over five years ago. The smoke testing consists of a nontoxic smoke which is inserted in a section of residential sewer pipeline. If smoke escapes through the ground, it indicates a leak in the sewer pipe. In addition, the test also detects possible breaks in homeowner’s sewer laterals, stormwater tie-ins, and any other possible outcome that allows either stormwater to get into the system, or wastewater to leak out of the system. The rehabilitation and repair of public sewer lines assists in identifying issues that contribute to sewer spills and overflows. Businesses and homeowners will be notified if the testing is conclusive to a rupture in their private lateral lines.

Notifications have already been issued to several neighborhoods within Decatur, as well as Atlanta. The initial smoke testing is now in its final stages and the city anticipates sending out letters this month to other areas of the county. Each notification contains a description of the issue and instructions on how the property owner should proceed with repairs. The issues typically range from irrigation connections into the public sewer, compromised private laterals, compromised cleanout caps, or issues where stormwater runoff has routed into the sewer system. All of these issues allow rainwater to enter the sewer system and reduce the capacity for sewage. In turn, these rain events cause sewer overflows, which pose a risk for an environmental hazard.

And the rain continues…currently, the city is advising residents to use caution as heavy rains have brought yet another major sewer spill in DeKalb County. The most recent sewer overflow involved 174,000 gallons of discharged sewage. The spill originated from an overflowing manhole and was one of a handful of spills, most much smaller, reported in the county as the county has recently sustained numerous bouts of severe weather.