Post-Elsa smoke test found no ‘major’ problem in Murray Hill sewer

‘We need to be concerned with any type of infiltration or inflow into our sewer system’ JEA says

‘We need to be concerned with any type of infiltration or inflow into our sewer system’ JEA says.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A week after rainfall from Tropical Storm Elsa overwhelmed a Murray Hill sewer system, sending 1,000 gallons of sewage spilling into the streets, JEA showed News4Jax how it uses smoke to identify flaws in its infrastructure.

News4Jax was on hand Thursday as the city-owned utility’s crews demonstrated how they use machines to pump smoke into a sewer system. The smoke enters through manholes and then travels through the system before billowing out of exhaust vents.

The goal of this maintenance technique, known as smoke testing, is to check that the sewer system is in good shape, JEA Community Involvement Director Gregory Corcoran said.

“So, before or after storms we want to make sure that our system is in good working order,” Corcoran told News4Jax. “So, any time that there is a large amount of rainfall, we need to be concerned with any type of infiltration or inflow into our sewer system.”

After JEA's sewage system was overwhelmed by rainfall from Tropical Storm Elsa, the utility is using smoke to inspect its systems for cracks and other flaws. Joe McLean has the story on News4Jax at 6 p.m.

As the I-TEAM previously reported, a sewer collection system in Murray Hill was overwhelmed by Elsa’s rainfall July 7, spilling 1,000 gallons of sewage near Nelson and Mayflower streets. JEA reported the spill to the Department of Environmental Protection, but neighbors were surprised to find out about it.

If those tests aren’t conducted and breaches in the system go unnoticed, Corcoran said it can result in a sewer overflow, with the potential to cause a sewage spill.

“Certainly, the first thing that can happen is there could be a sanitary sewer overflow, which is always a problem,” he said. “We’re always looking out for that. We definitely don’t want that to happen.”

If a smoke test is successful, like Thursday’s was, utility workers would only see clouds of smoke rising out of those vents – and nowhere else.

According to JEA, crews performed the same type of testing at the site of the sewer that overflowed in Murray Hill after Elsa blew through Jacksonville. The utility found no problems with the line, saying the overflow was not due to a lack of maintenance.

The utility notifies residents when it’s conducting these tests in their neighborhoods.

Should residents find smoke inside their homes during those tests, that means something’s wrong with your plumbing, and you’ll need to hire a plumber.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.