City to test sewer system Aug. 7-11

Smoke testing will isolate areas requiring repair in York, Sehome neighborhoods

August 03, 2017 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

City of Bellingham crews will be “smoke testing” the sanitary sewer system between Monday, Aug.7 and Friday, Aug. 11 in a section of Bellingham that includes portions of the York and Sehome neighborhoods.

The testing is done to locate where the sewer main may be taking in too much rain water via infiltration (when the surrounding ground is water-saturated) or inflow (when rain water seems to be directly entering the system.)  Flow meter testing done earlier indicated higher volumes of rainwater inflow and infiltration in an area bordered by York and Holly streets on the north, Ellis and Franklin streets on the east, Key Street on the west, and Newell Street on the east. This is the area that will be smoke-tested.

The smoke, which makes leaky areas in the sewer system easy to locate, does not stain and is not harmful. However, those with a heart or respiratory ailment who live within the testing area should contact Public Works (360/778-7900) before Monday, Aug. 7.  

What those in the testing area need to know:

  • If there are seldom-used drains in the home, pour water through them to keep smoke out;
  • If there are no plumbing deficiencies, smoke will release through ventilation pipes on the roof;
  • Crews test several hundred of sanitary sewer main at a time;
  • Total time to smoke test each section is approximately 20 minutes;
  • Smoke typically releases through roof vents – however, if smoke enters the home, open doors and windows and contact a City crew member working in the area.

Those whose residences are connected to a section of the sewer main that will be tested have been notified directly by mail. They will also receive a door hanger “reminder” the day before testing occurs in their neighborhood. For more information on the maintenance project, please contact Mike Olinger, maintenance superintendent for Public Works – Operations at (360) 778-7700 or via or visit

Media Contact

​Mike Olinger, maintenance superintendent
Public Works - Operations
(360) 778-7700

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