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Council begins smoke testing in Westport

08 Aug 2022

The Buller District Council will begin a comprehensive programme of smoke testing in Westport this week. This work will be undertaken by a designated WestReef Services team who will be working at various manhole locations around the town’s wastewater network.

Smoke testing involves forcing a dense, non-toxic and odourless smoke into the wastewater (sewer) system at a manhole. The smoke fills the main sewer pipe and any connected pipes and follows the path of any breaks in pipework to the ground surface.

The purpose of smoke testing is to identify any faults in the sewer network, including breaks in pipes and manholes as well as locations where stormwater and other surface water can get into the wastewater system.

When rainwater and surface water enters the wastewater system, it can exceed the capacity of the network, particularly in heavy rain events. The extra volume of water may result in slow household flows, overflows into the river and affects treatment processes within our wastewater treatment plant.

Smoke testing is common practice around New Zealand using the same white vapour as used in smoke machines at music concerts. It is considered safe for humans, animals and plants, leaves no residue or stains, is not a fire hazard and will disappear rapidly without leaving an odour.

Smoke testing staff will be noting areas where smoke is escapes the system and report these back to council. Council will use information gathered during the smoke testing project to help plan future public infrastructure improvement projects and to identify changes required to stop stormwater and other surface water from getting into the wastewater network. Depending on the findings, council may also undertake immediate repairs.

Council has prepared an information sheet with FAQs to provide more information on this project and how residents can prepare for the smoke testing. This information is available on Council’s website

Residents will receive a brochure in their mailboxes prior to when testing is expected to take place in their area.

The smoke testing programme for Westport will be undertaken in segments, coordinated with active works and local priorities.

The testing is weather dependent, and the programme is expected to be completed by the end of this year.