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RUSA crews sending up smoke signals in Roseburg neighborhood

August 23, 2018
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Rick Cox of the Roseburg Urban Sanitation Authority lights a smoke device that, in combination with a blower attached to a manhole cover, directs smoke through the lines. Where the smoke exits, reveals potential malfunctions below the street.

Roseburg Urban Sanitary Authority crews conducted smoke tests in the sewer lines of a Roseburg neighborhood this week to locate potential malfunctions in the lines.

RUSA workers aimed to find out if there are cracks in the lines that go through the area south of West Harvard Avenue in Roseburg, from West Harrison Street to West Keady Court.

Rick Cox, an employee with Roseburg Urban Sanitation Authority, used a smoke device along with a blower attached to a manhole cover to suck the smoke into the line. Moments later, the smoke flowed out of vents on homes along the street.

Where the smoke exits tells the crew a lot about the sewer lines. If there are breaks, the smoke will come right out of the ground, allowing them to trace the problem and reveal a possible need for repair.

RUSA Collection Supervisor Matt Chasteen said if workers see smoke coming out of the vents on the roof, that’s a good sign.

“That means there are no issues; it’s clear,” Chasteen said. “What we’re looking for is smoke coming out of gutters showing a cross-connection or smoke coming up out of the yard. Sometimes, if there is a crack you’ll actually see it coming right out of the grass or dirt.”

They also look for smoke coming out of foundation vents that might show there is an issue with the plumbing under the house.

“We want to get those taken care of on our end for customer safety, because there’s a potential for dangerous sewer gasses if there is a leak underneath the house,” Chasteen said. “If there’s smoke coming out there, it could also mean sewer gas is coming out and you wouldn’t even know it.”

Any cracks in the line could also mean ground water is getting into the sewer, and Chasteen said that’s one of the things RUSA spent money to fix in the last several years. It installed new manholes and sewer mains, and replaced buildings’ sewers out to the property lines to combat the problem.

Tom Fedder, who has lived in his house on West Ann Street since 1973, came out of his house to find smoke coming out of his chimney, but the fireplace no longer exists. It appeared a vent had been connected to the chimney allowing the smoke to escape there. Crews said the smoke wasn’t causing any problems, but Fedder was glad to find out anyway. He said it’s good that the company is doing the tests because the lines in that neighborhood are pretty old.

“It’s a good way of tracking things down and finding out if you have any problems,” he said. “I’m behind this all the way.”

Chasteen said they have seen some issues, which they expected. They will take the information and then decide how to proceed with repairs.

Utility Operator Leland Miller said they warned people in the neighborhood about the testing, and also made sure the fire department was alerted in case it got a lot of calls during the operation.

“We definitely want to call the fire department well in advance,” Miller said.

But there are always some who don’t get the message about possibly having smoke in the home. Wednesday morning, the Roseburg Fire Department was called to a residence on Military Avenue after a homeowner noticed smoke in the home. After checking it out, fire officials determined the smoke was from the sewer testing.

RUSA officials said residents in the area should not be alarmed if they see smoke this week. It has no odor, is nontoxic, nonstaining, does not create a fire hazard and will dissipate in a few minutes. It could mean possible defects in the sewer lines that could allow dangerous gases to escape. But if you have doubts, call the fire department to make sure.

If you have questions or concerns call RUSA at 541-672-1551.

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