Mother Nature may have been a fickle lady most of the summer with a steady outpouring of her tears from heaven, but for the past couple of weeks she has dried her eyes just in time for Cleveland Utilities to resume neighborhood smoke testing as part of a broader sewer rehabilitation program.
Drier conditions are pivotal for CU and contractor crews who are pumping smoke into existing wastewater collection lines to find cracks and breaks that are allowing storm and groundwater to seep into the pipes. This unwanted intrusion is known as inflow and infiltration (I/I) which is a direct contributor to manhole overflows and localized flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.
Excessive stormwater is also a burden on CU’s treatment facilities, and if left unchecked, it can lead to health hazards that could become violations of the local utility’s NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit, according to Greg Clark, CU wastewater rehabilitation manager.
That’s why two years ago the public utility launched a decade-long sewer rehab program called SCOPE 10, an acronym for Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment. Projected to cost about $30 million, the exhaustive rehabilitation’s goal is to curtail, and maybe even eliminate, the amount if I/I flowing into existing sewer lines.
Each phase of the project starts with smoke testing that allows technicians to identify defects in the existing system. Simply put, places where pumped smoke rises to the surface are areas of existing sewer pipes that will need a new interior lining or potentially a complete replacement.
CU launched its newest phase of SCOPE 10 last week in an area tagged as the Wildwood and Inman Street Basin. An array of area neighborhoods were greeted with the utility’s latest smoke signals, and these are continuing this week.
“Crews started smoke testing [last Thursday] as scheduled,” Clark said. “They’ll continue this week.”
Streets and neighborhoods that can expect to see utility or contractor crews at work today, and beyond, include 9th Street SE, Chippewa Avenue, Winnetaw Avenue, Hardwick Street, Gaut Street, Berry Street, Wildwood Avenue, 12th Street, 10th Street, Wiggins Street, Lang Street, Elrod Street, Elrod Place, 15th Street, 13th Street, Johnson Boulevard, Lee Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, Kathy Street, Kathy Drive, 19th Street, City View Street, Ogle Drive, Sellers Avenue, Wildwood Lake Road, Spring Place Road, Dalton Pike, 11th Street and White Street.
Area residents who have questions about the smoke testing process, or the broader SCOPE 10 project, are invited to approach utility and contractor crews once they arrive. Questions may also be directed to Cleveland Utilities.
Residents who are at home at the time of the smoke testing, or at their businesses, can expect to see smoke escape through vent stacks on the roof of their houses or businesses, Clark explained.
“This is a sign that the building’s plumbing is properly installed,” he said.
The smoke used is made specifically for this purpose. It appears white and offers a slight odor of mineral oil. It is not a fire hazard, leaves no residue and is nontoxic; however, it may cause minor throat irritation if too much is inhaled. Residents with respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections should leave their residence if smoke should enter their home, Clark cited.
This newest series of smoke testing is the start of SCOPE 10’s latest phase which is being funded through a low-interest $10 million loan to CU from the State Revolving Fund Loan program. Two SRF loans were recently awarded to the utility. One is for $1,826,000, which includes a debt forgiveness of $451,022. The other is for $8,174,000.
Both loans are 20-year terms and are at a fixed rate of 1.15 percent. Each loan is supporting SCOPE 10. CU officials believe the SRF funding will keep SCOPE 10 afloat for another three to four years as the utility works to overhaul most of its existing wastewater collection system.