AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For the next few weeks, engineers will be using special smoke candles and a blower to test for problems in the city's sewer system.
"We are looking for defects in the sewer system, mostly for drainage that is tied in that shouldn't be," explained Adam Wilding, a field engineer with contractor Weston & Sampson. "We are looking for any defects in the system and recording it. This is just the investigation portion of the program."
Wilding and his team pump smoke into the sewer pipes and walk throughout the area to check for smoke leaking from places where it shouldn't be leaking from. Plumes of smoke can be seen exiting vents on roof tops and wisps of white smoke escape from around manholes, sometimes as far as a 1000 feet from the blower, which is what they want to see.
"It is sometimes alarming if you don't know especially if we are doing a test," said Wilding.
The city and the Auburn Water and Sewer District sent out notices to residents where the testing will be done, and members of the team knock on doors and pass out flyers to make people aware that the work is being done in their neighborhood.
"It is a non-toxic, non-staining smoke, and it does dissipate very quickly," stated Sid Hazelton, an engineer with the sewer and water district. "We have done quite a bit of education to alert people to what this program is."
Hazelton says the district has spent more than $15 million over the past 15 years to upgrade the sewer system and remove storm water from the sewer. He says the tests will help find any problem spots that will need to be fixed to help save money and protect the environment.
"The more storm water we can get out of the sewer system, the more it is going to save us, and ultimately the rate payers," he explained. "If we can eliminate these sources of inflow, it would help us avoid having to do costly upgrades to the treatment plant. That is one of the other motivations that we have. The less flow there is, the less work we will have to do in the future to make sure it is going to work."
Hazelton says the work will continue for the next few weeks to inspect about 80,000 feet of sewer lines in several sections of the city. Once the data is gathered, then the sewer district will get to work on plans to fix any issues they find.