‘Smoke test’ set for Vail drain lines
Ryan Summerlin November 7, 2013
VAIL — The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District will test wastewater collection mains in Lionshead, Vail Village, and Gold Peak the week of Nov. 11-15. A non-toxic smoke will be mixed with large volumes of air and pumped into the mains one section at a time, from manhole to manhole, to assess the condition of the pipes and to identify areas where storm water runoff is discharging into the collection system.
Businesses and property owners/managers in the project area should prepare for the smoke test by “priming” the drain trap on all sinks; basement, mechanical room, and shower floor drains; washing machines; and other plumbing fixtures before Monday. To prime a drain-trap, pour about 3 cups of water into each drain to ensure that traps are not dry. Water in the drain trap creates a seal that prevents potentially harmful sewer gases and smoke from entering a residence or business. Plumbing fixtures that are regularly used should have sufficient water in the trap. If smoke enters a property due to a dry trap, it is not considered harmful, but could trigger a smoke alarm.
A zinc chloride-based smoke preferred by the Environmental Protection Agency will be used. The smoke is grayish-white in color and leaves no residue. Smoke should be exhausted to the air via plumbing vent stacks, but it is possible for smoke to enter a building through defects in wastewater piping or dry drain traps in plumbing fixtures.
While the smoke is non-toxic, it is recommended to avoid prolonged periods of exposure. If smoke appears from a drain or other defect inside your property, immediately open windows and ventilate the area to dissipate the smoke and then notify the technicians conducting the test, who will be monitoring the area. The location will be noted so the defect can later be remedied.
The smoke test is needed to assess the condition of the district’s wastewater collection system and to identify areas that are discharging storm water runoff into the system. During intense rainfall events the rate of wastewater flow into the Vail wastewater treatment facility has increased rapidly and significantly, which indicates that storm water is entering the system. Wastewater that contains large amounts of storm water can disrupt normal treatment processes and, if not mitigated, could result in a costly expansion of the treatment plant to accommodate the peak flows during rainfall events. Increased flows in the wastewater collection system as a result of rainfall can also overwhelm the hydraulic capacity of the collection system, leading to backups that can damage property and the environment.
District staff members are coordinating with emergency services personnel to reduce false smoke alarms and similar incidents. As a precaution, people with respiratory ailments may wish to make arrangements to be contacted to vacate their premises for a short time during the testing. For more information, including smoke product details, go to www.erwsd.org or call 970-477-5451.