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Smoke testing is the process of injecting artificially produced smoke into a blocked off pipeline segment to see where the smoke emerges. If the line is in good condition, the smoke will emerge from manhole lids along the line. If there are any cracks or defects within the line, the smoke will come from those. It is not unusual to see some smoke come up through cracks in the pavement or in residential yards during testing. It is also not unusual for smoke to come out of the plumbing vent pipe above your roof.
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No, disposable wipes, rags, clothing articles, and paper towels should not be flushed because these combine with fats, oils, greases, and other debris to cause major clogs within the wastewater collection system and treatment facilities. The fibers contained within most “flush-able” wipes are not biodegradable. Also, if your house has a low-pressure grinder pump, the pump may become damaged and the property owner could be responsible for the costs of repair. Please see the Grinder Pump Informational Brochure (PDF) which discusses the use and maintenance of grinder pump systems.
A briefing regarding legislation in the District of Columbia regarding flushable wipes provides additional insights into the issue.
It may take three to six weeks depending on the type of grinder system installation. If a sewer tap needs to be made for connection to the low-pressure sewer system within an NC DOT area, an encroachment application must be submitted by Brunswick County to the State, which can extend wait time to up to three months. Prior to the contractor/homeowner applying for pressure sewer service, siding must be installed, underground power must be installed to the structure, and final land grade must be established. If any of the above steps are not completed prior to service request, the timeline for installation will be regenerated. After the basin is set, an additional request by contractor/homeowner is required at completion of customer-side electrical and plumbing installation. This is referred to as start-up, allowing County staff to inspect customer-side connections with the pump being tested, ensuring the system operates as intended.
All Brunswick Counties locates can be requested through the NC 811 ULOCO system. You can call 811 and request that all utilities located at the service address be located by the appropriate utility owner. A standard locate may take up to 3 business days, and emergency locates will be taken care of as soon as possible. Please note that any water or sewer connections beyond the water meter box, gravity sewer clean out, or County owned grinder station are owned and maintained by the property owner and will not be located or maintained by Brunswick County Utility Staff.
Sewer overflows on a grinder system are typically caused by a pump failure. When your alarm goes off, please call one of our emergency numbers and refrain from heavy water usage, i.e. washing machine, dishwasher, showers, and baths. Another thing that will ensure your pump operates properly is by not putting prohibited items into the sewage system, i.e. wet wipes, grease, and feminine hygiene products. These items shorten the lifespan of your pump and may cause a sewer overflow. It is not suggested to shut down the breaker. Silencing the alarm is all that is necessary until staff arrives for repair.
We ask the homeowner to silence the alarm if they can, it is not necessary or recommended to turn off the breaker to the grinder pump. Please call into our maintenance line at 910-253-2657. On the grinder pump control panel, there is an information sticker with our after-hours phone numbers as well.
View the Grinder Pump Informational Brochure (PDF)
To ensure the sanitary sewer system is in good working order, it is important to locate and repair any breaks in the lines to prevent larger problems in the future. Smoke testing is one of the best, cost-effective ways to locate defects in main sewer lines and service laterals that connect to residences.
To prevent the possibility of smoke entering your home, ensure water has been run in your sinks and showers/tubs to put water in your P-traps. This acts as a blockage to keep smoke from coming out of the drains in your home.
Very unlikely; however, if there is a P-trap that is not holding water, or if additional lines within the home are un-trapped or defective, it may. In this case, you may want to contact a plumber to investigate.
Remember: If smoke can enter your home through your plumbing connection, potentially harmful sewer gases may also.
Homeowners do not need to be home and at no time will our field crew members enter a home.