City of Fort Myers

Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey

About the Project

The City of Fort Myers is performing a comprehensive Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey with the goal of reducing groundwater and stormwater from entering the system, reducing the risk of sanitary sewer overflows, and improving overall system reliability.  During this evaluation, crews will be conducting system inspections such as smoke tests, manhole and lift station inspections, and dye tests within the City’s sanitary sewer system. The smoke test helps determine if the City is contributing excess flows to the sanitary sewers in the form of storm (rain) water that enters the sanitary sewers through manholes, cracks in pipes, or sanitary/storm sewer cross connections. Stormwater that enters the sanitary sewer in this manner is then unnecessarily sent through the sanitary sewers to the City’s wastewater treatment plant where it is treated as if it were sanitary flow, resulting in increased cost to the residents.

To download current smoke notice:

Phase 1 Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey Locations

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Smoke testing involves blowing non-toxic smoke into the sanitary sewer system to locate defects that would allow stormwater to enter the system. You may see smoke coming from vent stacks on buildings or holes in the ground. The smoke varies in color from white to gray. The smoke that is being used is manufactured especially for this application and is non-toxic and non-staining. Smoke should not enter your home or business unless the plumbing is not functioning properly. If you have any seldom used drains and floor drains, please pour water in the drain to fill the trap prior to the test. If smoke does enter a home or business, opening of windows and doors should quickly dissipate the smoke.

Field crews blow air and smoke into the sanitary sewer system in the street and monitor where smoke escapes the system.  The smoke under pressure will fill the main line as well as any connections and then follow the path of any leak to the ground surface, quickly revealing the source of the problem.

Smoke testing is the most efficient and cost-effective way to locate and identify where unauthorized water is entering the public portion of the sewer system and find areas of the sewer system that need improvement. Smoke testing is becoming a requirement nationwide for locating unauthorized water problems that are threatening the ability to properly treat wastewater.

Crews may be in your area for several hours, but the actual testing typically takes between 45 and 60 minutes.

The testing should not affect your home/business, or your sanitary sewer service. Home and business owners do not need to be present during the testing, which will be performed during normal business hours. However, you MUST POUR WATER DOWN SELDOM USED DRAINS PRIOR TO THE TESTING – especially any floor drains in your home/business. This should prevent smoke from entering and setting off smoke alarms unnecessarily. Residents and businesses should be aware that some smoke may enter a home/business if the vent stack is blocked, or a sewer connection is dry. If you detect smoke, don’t be alarmed as the smoke is harmless and will dissipate after several minutes. Please open windows and doors to help dissipate the smoke and report it to the crews conducting the tests in your neighborhood. 

IMPORTANT – If there is any individual in your home or business who has respiratory problems and/or mobility limitations, please notify us at 239-337-1071 prior to testing. 

Do Not Be Alarmed. Open windows to all ventilation and note the location of the smoke emission. Smoke will clear within a few minutes. Exit the building and notify the smoke testing personnel in the area. IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBT AS TO THE SOURCE OF THE SMOKE IN YOUR HOME OR YARD, PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.

The smoke has a distinctive but not unpleasant odor. Visibility and odor last only a few minutes with adequate ventilation.

The smoke is safe, non-toxic, non-staining, and harmless to you, children, pets, plants, food, materials, and creates no fire hazard. Those with respiratory conditions
should take special precautions.

Evacuating is a precautionary measure in case the smoke is due to a real fire rather than a test, and since smoke in your house from this test indicates other sewer gases may also be entering the building.

Although the smoke is considered to have no adverse health effects, individuals with respiratory conditions should take special precautions. Smoke rarely enters a home, but you could sit outside for the duration of the smoke test (20 min). If you cannot sit outside, open the windows and shut your bathroom doors. Also, call the number on the flyer prior to testing.

The smoke is not harmful to pets. If possible, leave pets in a room without any plumbing fixtures and with the door closed to isolate them from any smoke that may enter the house. 

If smoke enters your home during the test, it may indicate there are deficiencies in the plumbing that may allow potentially dangerous sewer gases to enter.  Plumbing fixtures in your home or business are connected to the sanitary sewer, therefore there is potential for smoke to enter if the drains are not connected properly. This happens particularly under the following circumstances:

  • The vents connected to your building’s sewer pipes are inadequate, defective, or improperly installed.
  • The traps under sinks, tubs, basins, etc. are dry, defective, or improperly installed.
  • The pipes, connections, or seals in the wastewater drain system in and/or under your building are damaged, defective, have plugs missing, or are improperly installed.
  • Simply run water down the drain for a minute to ensure that the trap is not dry.  It is important to locate dry traps as they could allow sewer gases to enter the home.

No, inspection crews will not need to enter your home. The purpose of the smoke test is to identify sources of rain or ground water entering the sewer system.

Yes, smoke alarms may activate during smoke testing if the home/business is not properly plumbed, or if the water traps are dry. If possible, open windows and/or doors for ventilation. If you have any doubt of the source of the smoke, please call 911.

If you have questions about the project or concerns during testing, please contact the City’s public information consultant, Cella Molnar & Associates, Inc., at 239-337-1071 or email to You can also contact the City of Fort Myers Interim Public Information Officer, Andrea Guerrero, at 239-391-1003 or email to