Sewer Smoke Testing

As part of maintaining its sanitary sewer system and to meet the requirements of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's Watershed Management Ordinance, the Village completes sanitary sewer smoke testing on an annual basis. This page provides a basic overview of the program. 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Smoke Testing

What is smoke testing and why is the Village doing it?

Smoke testing is a type of sanitary sewer testing designed to help identify defects and points of potential cross connection (i.e. downspouts connected to sanitary sewers). During this testing, sewer mains are pressurized with non-toxic, non-staining smoke. Contractor crews will be surveying the area where testing is being completed and documenting any areas where smoke is found.

The Village is required to complete this testing as part of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District's requirements for sewer systems that discharge into their system.

Who will be completing this testing?

The Village's contractor for this work is RMS Utility Services.

How will I be notified regarding when the testing begins?

Two to three days prior to the testing, RMS will place pink door tags in the area to be tested. This notice will include more information regarding testing and answer frequently asked questions. The day prior to testing, the Village will also issue a Northbrook Notify message to the area to be tested. To sign up for Northbrook Notify, please visit this link

What should I expect during testing?

During testing, you may see smoke rising out of sanitary sewer manholes, the vent stacks (chimneys) of buildings or the ground. Crews will be surveying the area where testing is being completed and documenting any areas where smoke is found. As part of this, crew members may need to temporarily enter your yard. All crew members will have identification badges and will be wearing company uniforms at all times. A Village staff member will also be present to help answer any questions and monitor work.

A video over-viewing smoke testing can be viewed at this link.

What does the smoke look like?

A video with examples that describes the process can be found at this link. Some examples can be found below:

Manhole Sewer Smoke Testing

Do I need to be home during testing?

No. However, there is a possibility that smoke may inadvertently enter your home through a dry sewer drain trap. To reduce the chance of this happening, please pour one (1) gallon of water down each of your drains, especially those drains in your basement, upon receipt of the pink door tag that will be placed on your door two to three days before the test on your street. This will help seal the drain traps so the smoke cannot enter. If you are concerned that the smoke in your home may not be related to the smoke testing, please do not hesitate to call the Fire Department at 9-1-1.

If you will not be home during the testing but someone will be who has a respiratory problem or might be alarmed or confused if they see smoke, please contact RMS at 888-655-4085 to notify them ahead of time.