Sanitary Sewer System Smoke Testing Program

The City of Berkeley started conducting smoke testing of the sanitary sewer system in summer 2011, which will continue during summer months over a 10-year period. This year testing will begin in mid-August, and residents of areas to be tested will receive notices prior to testing.

Smoke testing identifies locations where there are defects or improper connections in the sewer system, and is the industry standard and an efficient, cost effective way to locate and identify leaks and the source of storm water infiltration problems in the sanitary sewer system. The smoke manufactured specifically for testing is EPA endorsed, and is a non-toxic, non-staining substance that is generally considered to be harmless to humans, pets, food, and material items. The specific product has been used successfully for over 30 years throughout the United States.

Smoke Testing Requirement & Importance

The smoke testing is required by EPA Administrative and Stipulated Orders that affect Berkeley and other “satellite agencies” that comprise the EBMUD wastewater collection system. These seven agencies have jointly contracted with E2 Consulting Engineers, Inc. to conduct the smoke testing for each of the agencies under a unified program responding to the EPA requirements. E2 has provided engineering and environmental consulting services since 1988, and their team has successfully completed numerous smoke testing and condition assessment projects throughout the Bay Area.

Testing is important because each year millions of gallons of excess water infiltrate sanitary sewers and can overload the system, pump stations and treatment plants. The sanitary sewer system is designed for wastewater only from homes and businesses to flow to the EBMUD treatment plant. The storm water drainage system is a separate network of pipes channeling storm water runoff into creeks and waterways, and into the Bay. The infiltration of storm water in any amount into the sanitary sewer system can cause and contribute to the overflow of untreated wastewater during storm events and potentially result in environmental and property damage.

Links to Smoke Testing Map & Information (PDF files)