Sanitary Sewer System Smoke Testing Program

The City of Berkeley started conducting smoke testing of the sanitary sewer system in summer 2011, which will continue during summer months over a 10-year period. This year testing will begin in mid-June, and residents of areas to be tested will receive notices prior to testing.

Smoke testing identifies locations where there are defects or improper connections in the sewer system, and is the industry standard and an efficient, cost effective way to locate and identify leaks and the source of storm water infiltration problems in the sanitary sewer system. The smoke manufactured specifically for testing is EPA endorsed, and is a non-toxic, non-staining substance that is generally considered to be harmless to humans, pets, food, and material items. The specific product has been used successfully for over 30 years throughout the United States.

Smoke Testing

This year National Plant Services, Inc. (NPS) will perform smoke testing in Berkeley. NPS has provided engineering and environmental services since 1981. It has teamed with Blue Water Solutions Group. Together they have experience to complete this project successfully.

Testing is important because each year millions of gallons of excess water infiltrate sanitary sewers and can overload the system, pump stations and treatment plants. The sanitary sewer system is designed for wastewater only from homes and businesses to flow to the EBMUD treatment plant. The storm water drainage system is a separate network of pipes channeling storm water runoff into creeks and waterways, and into the Bay. The infiltration of storm water in any amount into the sanitary sewer system can cause and contribute to the overflow of untreated wastewater during storm events and potentially result in environmental and property damage.

Links to Smoke Testing Map & Information (PDF files)

PSL Loan Program: the City offers a loan program to assist Berkeley low-income property owners to comply with BMC 17.24 requirements for private sewer laterals. The eligible work funded through the PSL Loan Program is limited to repair or replacement of a private sewer lateral with defects or improper connections that were identified by the City’s smoke testing program ( or came to the City’s attention through other means. See this summary for information about the PSL Loan Program. For a complete package of application documents, call 510-981-6423 or email