Smoke signals are returning to Bradley County air space today, but they’re not a tribal warning of the cavalry’s approach; instead, it’s Cleveland Utilities and contractor crews launching the next phase of the ongoing SCOPE 10 sewer rehabilitation project.
A familiar acronym standing for Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment, the decade-long initiative — projected to cost about $30 million by the time it’s completed — is well into its second year. Its purpose is to curtail inflow and infiltration (I/I) — a reference to unwanted storm and ground water — into CU’s aging sewer lines, many of which are cracked or broken, as well as damaged manholes.
Excessive I/I is a key contributor to storm water overflows which cause localized flooding in the city and can create public health hazards.
Traditionally, the startup of a new SCOPE 10 phase features the smoke testing, according to Greg Clark, CU wastewater rehabilitation manager.
The technique is pivotal in helping to identify sections of sewer lines or manholes that might have cracks or breaks. In the procedure, a nontoxic smoke is forced into existing lines. Areas where smoke begins to rise from the ground or pipes are indications that breaks or cracks are present, and are allowing the smoke to seep through to the surface.
Smoke-testing crews are among the first line of tools used to identify defective sewer lines, Clark said. Technicians have been conducting smoke tests for the past couple of years as the SCOPE 10 project progresses from phase to phase.
Today, smoke testing was scheduled to begin along these Cleveland area streets: Spring Place Road, Baldwin Street, White Street, 21st Street, Northeast Road, Neymon Street, 19th Street, Ogle Drive, Elrod Street, Wildwood Lake Road, Johnson Boulevard, Lois Street, Lee Street, Washington Avenue, Bazemore Street and Thompson Street.
“Residents will be notified in person, if they are at home, or via a flier stating the smoke testing will be taking place,” Clark said. “The flier includes contact phone numbers in case there are questions.”
Clark said smoke testing in this area, which is described on CU maps as the Wildwood and Inman Street Basin, should continue over the next three to four weeks, depending on the weather.
Smoke testing must be done in dry conditions; therefore, excessive rainfall can delay testing on any given day, he explained.
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 noted.
“This is a sign that the building’s plumbing is properly installed,” he said.
As has been CU’s practice for the past couple of years with SCOPE 10, Clark said the local utility works to keep residents informed about the project, the accompanying smoke testing and other future activities surrounding the complicated rehab initiative.
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 said.
CU’s SCOPE 10 project received a boost earlier this year with the awarding of $10 million in financing through the State Revolving Fund Loan program. Two SRF loans were awarded. 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 set at a fixed rate of 1.15 percent. Each loan will support the SCOPE 10 sewer rehab project.
Today’s resumption of smoke testing signals the launch of the opening phase of the SCOPE 10 continuation being made possible by the SRF loans.
The success of SCOPE 10 is critical because excessive overflows can become violations of CU’s NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit if not corrected.
Such issues would result in mandatory sewer moratoriums as ordered by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Sewer moratoriums mean no more connections to the affected wastewater lines, and this would jeopardize future construction and economic development growth; at least, until the NPDES violations are resolved.