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February 14th, 2011
City plans sewer line smoke test in Westover area


The city of San Marcos will begin harmless smoke testing of wastewater lines in the Westover neighborhood near the intersection of Progress and Columbia the week of Feb. 14 as part of the year-long Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study started in November.

Burgess & Niple, Inc. of Austin has been hired to perform the smoke test survey within local neighborhoods to include Westover, Heritage, Dunbar, Southwest Hills, Oak Heights, Park Place, Weatherford Heights, Coers Street and Holland Street.

Uniformed inspectors will distribute fliers to each affected address 48 hours prior to the start of smoke testing. Businesses and schools will be notified in person. The fliers will details steps property owners should take to prepare for testing.

“The smoke testing involves blowing harmless smoke into the sanitary sewer to locate pipe or manhole breaks,” stated Jennifer Shell, Interim Director of Capital Improvements. “This is an extremely efficient and safe way to find defects in the system.”

During the testing, smoke may be seen coming from vent stacks on houses or holes in the ground. This smoke is harmless, has little odor, creates no fire hazard and should not enter a home unless there is defective plumbing or dried up drain traps.

If smoke enters a home or business, occupants should contact a member of the smoke testing crew to check the sewer lines around the structure to determine the source of the smoke. Residents or business owners may also need to consult a licensed plumber.

Property owners are not required to be at their residence during the smoke testing and at no time will field crews need to enter a home or business.

In preliminary stages of the evaluation study, crews conducted above ground physical inspections to locate sanitary sewer manholes and update city maps. Below ground physical inspections of manholes and sewer lines were recently completed.

At its completion, the Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study will identify sewer system deficiencies and areas that need repair. It also allows city staff to proactively address utility improvements to reduce stress on lift stations and the wastewater treatment plant.

This is the second SSES the City has conducted as recommended by the Wastewater Master Plan. The first study was completed in 2008 and included Downtown and the Victory Gardens neighborhood. Sewer line defects identified by the first study are scheduled for repair in 2011.

For more information on this project, please call the Capital Improvements Department at 512.393.8130 or email

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