They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but not when town officials are testing for breaks in the main sewer lines.
At around 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 4, the fire department received a report of smoke at a residence at 270 Marguerite Place in Friday Harbor. Fire department staff determined there was no fire. Instead, the smoke for testing was coming through the sewer line outside the house and seeping into the windows. Staff said the same issue was occurring at homes across the street.
Duncan Wilson, the town administrator, said pumping smoke through the sewer lines can help staff see if gas is coming out of an undesignated area, which would indicate a break. According to a Town of Friday Harbor press release, the testing started on Sept. 4 and will run through Sept. 6.
San Juan Island Fire and Rescue Chief Brad Creesy used a hand-held carbon monoxide detector to determine that the smoke inside the home was the non-toxic fumes used for testing. Residents waited outside until the fire department arrived.
Wilson explained that groundwater can seep into the sewer line if there is a break. Large amounts of excess liquid can cause overflow, which can make the water more difficult to treat.
Smoke can also be seen coming through manholes on Friday Harbor streets. Wilson is adamant that the gas is not harmful.
“The contractor has assured the town that the smoke used is non-toxic and non-staining, similar to the type of smoke used at a concert,” he said.
Wilson noted that there are road signs and door hangers in neighborhoods to indicate where testing will occur. Creesy explained that those who suspect a fire is occurring should call 911 regardless of whether their neighborhood is being tested.
“Still call 911 if you are concerned,” said Creesy.