Smoke Testing

Jacksonville Public Services periodically performs smoke testing throughout the City to find and fix sewer defects. The City will notify neighborhoods through Jacksonville Connect as well as social media and other platforms ahead of any scheduled testing.

Smoke testing machineWhat Does Smoke Testing Do?

Smoke testing is a simple means of locating defects in sewer mains and service laterals that allow rainfall runoff or ground water to enter the sanitary sewer collection system. Locating and correcting these defects helps conserve the available capacity of the wastewater collection system, lift stations and treatment facility. 

What You Could See During the Test 

Smoke testing is done by introducing a non-toxic mist along with large volumes of air through an open sanitary sewer manhole. "Smoke" will appear around nearby manhole lids and from the ground above defects in sewer mains and sewer service laterals. Smoke will also appear where there are cross connections to the storm sewer system. Smoke coming out of plumbing vent roof stacks is normal and is not a cause for alarm. If the plumbing system of your residence/business is adequate and all drain traps are full of water, smoke should not be seen indoors. 

Smoke testing, Northwoods

Seeing "Smoke" Inside Residence or Business 

Smoke may be observed inside a home or building if there is a plumbing deficiency or dried-up drain traps (such as the P-trap under a sink). Please ensure that your drain traps are air tight by periodically releasing water down each drain that is infrequently used, including sinks, laundry room floor drains, bathtubs, showers, unused washing machine drains, etc. 

  • Plumbing deficiencies that may cause this situation include: 
  • Vents connected to the building’s sewer lateral are inadequate, defective, or improperly installed. 
  • Traps under sinks, tubs, basins, showers, floor drains, etc. are dry, defective, improperly installed, or missing. 
  • Pipes, connections, and seals of the building’s sewer system are damaged, defective, have plugs missing, or are improperly installed. 
  • Caps for sewer lateral cleanouts are broken or missing. 

Jacksonville Public Services strongly advises that any source of smoke within a building be located, identified, and corrected by a licensed plumber in accordance with local codes. The correction of any defects in building plumbing systems or in sewer pipes that are on private property is entirely the responsibility of the property owner. 

Is it Smoke Testing or an Emergency? 

Jacksonville Fire & Emergency Services will be notified of any scheduled testing to prepare for the possibility of an excessive amount of phone calls about smoke in the area. Folks should call 9-1-1 if they see fire or smell something burning or experience smoke in the area outside of the scheduled testing timeframe. 

As a precaution, if residents in the scheduled test area have a pet that will be alone in a home, an invalid, an individual with respiratory problems or an elderly person who might be alone or alarmed if they see smoke, they are asked to inform personnel about the special situation by calling Jacksonville Public Services at 910 938-5249. 

Smoke from Vent Pipe on House
Smoke Testing is a Safe Process 

Smoke testing is a process endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has been safely used for more than 20 years to evaluate sanitary sewer collections systems. The "smoke" is not true smoke but rather a specially-formulated mist that is made up mostly of moisture from the atmosphere. The mist is non-toxic, has no ill effects on humans, animals and plants, does not create a fire hazard, and leaves no residual odors, dust or stains. The mist may have a weak but not unpleasant odor. This odor is distinctive and does not smell like the smoke produced from burning materials. Any visible mist indoors will dissipate within a few minutes with adequate ventilation. Mist dissipation can be accelerated by opening windows and using ceiling fans. 

Questions or Concerns? 

If you have any questions about the process, please contact Jacksonville Public Services at 910 938-5249.