news holy smokes harrisonburg sewer line test under way starting monday

Holy smokes! Harrisonburg sewer line test under way starting Monday

city steaming manhole
(© TheParisPhotographer –

The City of Harrisonburg’s public utilities department will begin its annual testing of the sanitary sewer system on Monday. The testing will run through November.

During this time, residents may notice smoke rising from manhole covers, yards where systems run, or even from their bathtubs, toilets or sinks.

Some smoke will be seen being released from rooftop plumbing vents, which is an indication of a properly installed plumbing system.

The effort involves release of a non-toxic and non-staining test smoke into area manholes, which will travel through the sanitary sewer system. The purpose of this testing is to detect any breaks or leaks in the city’s system and make appropriate repairs, if necessary.

The city has a total of 190 miles of sewer lines and a section of those lines are tested each year.

Tips for residents

  • Pour one gallon of water into the drain traps of floors, sinks, showers, and tubs, which will prevent sewer gases or smoke from entering a home or business.
  • If the non-toxic smoke enters a residence or business, this is a sign of a defect in the plumbing. When this occurs, there is no need to contact emergency services. Open a window or door for ventilation, note the location of the smoke, and contact a qualified plumber.
  • Anyone with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions should not stay in a building where smoke has entered as a precautionary measure.

Anyone with questions may contact public utilities at (540) 434-9959.

Areas being tested

  • Harrisonburg City Schools
  • Skyline Middle School
  • Smithland Elementary School
  • Elon Rhodes Early Education Learning Center
  • Harrisonburg Health & Rehabilitation, 1225 Reservoir Street
  • Med Express, 1840 East Market Street
  • National Business College, 1515 Country Club
  • RMH Corporate Health, 1790 East Market Street
  • Alexander Hamilton Lane
  • Allegheny Avenue
  • Betsy Ross Court
  • Blue Ridge Drive
  • Bluebird Court
  • Bluestone Hills Drive
  • Bobwhite Place
  • Broadview Drive
  • Burgess Road
  • Cherrybrook Drive
  • Clay Street
  • Constitution Court
  • Country Club Court
  • Country Club Road
  • Crystal Lane
  • Deyerle Avenue
  • East Market Street
  • Eastover Drive
  • Emerald Drive
  • Evelyn Byrd Avenue
  • Falcon Court
  • Financial Drive
  • Founders Way
  • Goldfinch Drive
  • Hawkins Street
  • Honeysuckle Lane
  • John Hancock Place
  • John Paul Jones Lane
  • Linda Lane
  • Meadowlark Drive
  • Medical Avenue
  • Meridian Circle
  • Mockingbird Drive
  • Molly Pitcher Place
  • Morninglory Court
  • Mountain View Drive
  • Nathan Hale Court
  • Neff Avenue
  • North Carlton Street
  • Norwood Street
  • Oakland Street
  • Oriole Lane
  • Patrick Henry Place
  • Paul Revere Court
  • Pheasant Court
  • Redwing Court
  • Reservoir Street
  • Robin Court
  • Settlers Lane
  • Sparrow Court
  • Spotswood Drive
  • Spotswood Terrace
  • Star Crest Drive
  • Summerfield Drive
  • Terri Drive
  • University Boulevard
  • Vine Street
  • Wellington Drive
  • Woodbury Circle
  • Wren Way

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.