Washburn considers smoke test ordinance

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

City aims to bill property owners for tests, deter sewer issues

Washburn officials are discussing a new ordinance requiring property owners to pay for repairs found in smoke testing.

The city of Washburn conducts smoke test as part of a regular maintenance routine for parts of the city. The testing, which involves spreading smoke through sewer lines, is a preventative measure that pinpoints the location of sewer deficiencies and leaks that need to be repaired.

If a sewer system has defects, rain water or debris could enter the system, raising the cost of wastewater treatment and increasing the risk of sewage overflows.

The smoke is created for this purpose and has no negative effects. It will not appear in a home unless there is defective plumbing, dried-up P-traps or floor drains.

Mayor John Tiedeman said this was a safety precaution for the city because the gas from sewers can cause explosions if the P-traps are dried up.

Officials have discussed the idea of billing property owners when defects lead to smoke affecting a property, as they say it is the property owners' responsibility to maintain upkeep of their systems.

Officials said that they would have the city attorney draft an ordinance to be presented at the next meeting.

The discussion was initiated by a report from James Libertus, utilities superintendent, after a recent smoke test found three properties that required cleaning on the city's dime.

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