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Smoke But No Fire: Sewers smoke testing prompts calls to fire department

CONYERS - Rockdale residents might see smoke coming out of the ground or plumbing fixtures. But that doesn't necessarily mean there's a fire.

Since the beginning of the month, Rockdale Water Resources has been "smoke testing" the sewer system to find where there might be holes or leaks in the pipes that are allowing in rainwater.

"This tests the integrity of the system," said RWR Deputy Director Kerry Williams. "We have 'infiltration and inflow' into the system. We're getting rainwater into the system." More water coming into the sewage system is a problem because that means there is more volume for the county's sewage plant to process, which leads to a higher cost.

Once the leaks and holes are found, "we'll send a TV camera into the pipes to see why smoke was coming into the area," explained Williams.

RWR is starting with the Almon Branch district, which covers part of Olde Town Conyers and stretches into the Salem Road corridor.

Testing will take place throughout the month, during business hours, and is estimated to wrap at the end of the month.

The Rockdale Fire Rescue Division has been seeing more false alarms due to the smoke testing of the sewer system, said RCFR spokesperson Jacade Long.

Williams said it's not unusual to see smoke coming out all the way at the end of the sewer pipeline system, in homes. "If there's a breach, youll see smoke coming out of the ground. It will come to the surface." Drivers and passers by may see this and think there is smoke from fire. This smoke is also supposed to be odorless and does not smell like smoke from a fire, said Williams.

Residents were notified with a tag or flyer left on their doors, said Williams. RWR will also begin posting a notice on its website.

Williams said the next district to be smoke tested has not been determined or approved yet; the Almon Branch district is the first area to receive this testing.