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Smoke testing throughout Lowry area this month

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Jeannette Municipal Authority is smoke testing pipes this week and will continue through much of October in the Lowry Avenue area of the city.

The work is part of what is known as the Wiley Avenue project — essentially an effort to separate all stormwater and sanitary lines that flow from the hilltops down the main line along Lowry Avenue. The construction on Lowry has been ongoing for months and should wrap up this week in time for PennDOT to repave the road next week.

The smoke testing, which is being performed by Insight Pipe Contracting, will take place over the next few weeks between Lewis Avenue, crossing over the Pine Street area, and from Division Street to Route 30.

“There is more stormwater getting into areas we thought we had figured out even as we've separated the lines,” said Doug Pike, authority superintendent. “The sanitary lines are getting too much stormwater. This (testing) will let smoke go through the main sewer lines and it shouldn't come out except at manholes and storm drains. We'll see it (the smoke) and take whatever steps necessary to eliminate (the leaks).”

All homes and businesses that will be affected should receive a notice, warning of the testing in advance.

To prevent smoke from entering homes, Pike said, residents of the affected area should be sure to pour some water into all floor drains, sinks, toilets, bathtubs, shower stalls or other drains that aren't used often. Dry drains could see smoke escape.

Standing water in traps will prevent the smoke from entering homes. Pike said if smoke enters a home, residents can either look outside for the Insight Pipe contractors who will be in the area searching for leaking smoke, or call the municipal authority at 724-527-4022 for help.

If smoke enters a home, it means sewer gas could enter a home as well and a problem may need to be addressed.

As the authority works to separate all storm and sanitary pipes throughout the city, smoke testing in other neighborhoods will be likely in the future.

The $2.5 million Wiley Avenue project has taken longer than intended, Pike said, including closures on Lowry Avenue. These delays happened for several reasons. As the work progressed, employees realized the sanitary lines were still getting too much stormwater and, along the way, workers found pipes the authority didn't know about.

The Lowry Avenue work will wrap up this week, but the overall project — which basically encompasses all pipes that drain by gravity to the Lowry Avenue main lines — is ongoing. The results of the smoke testing will determine future work.

“It might just be a couple of catch basins. We might find some residents have roof drains tied in, we might find illegal connections. Until we know what the problem is, it's hard to put a timeline on when the work will be completed,” Pike said.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-838-5154.