A sewer smoke test of the public sewer system in Brunswick turned up a good number of small issues, which utility officials expected due to the age of the sewer.

“We got told about a week and a half ago that they estimate around 700 or so defects were found in the system,” said Andrew Burroughs, executive director of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission. “They tested the majority of the system up (U.S. Highway) 17 to FLETC and all the way down into the downtown area.”

He couldn’t say exactly how much of the issue is private as opposed to public.

Many of the defects will likely be found on private property and as such will be the responsibility of the property owner, he said. A smoke test on the St. Simons Island sewer system done during the summer showed the breakdown to be close to 50-50.

“We will be contacting those customers to let them know they have a defect they need to fix. We have letters to send out that will say you have ‘X’ number of days to get this deficiency corrected,” Burroughs said. “Generally it’s a cleanout cap. Very cheap, you just get that replaced and you’re good.”

Utility workers have addressed some of the more serious issues uncovered by the test, but most of the smaller fixes will wait for the final report from the contractor.

“It’s nothing major, just the cumulative effect of all these defects,” Burroughs said.

Utility commissioners approved the Brunswick smoke test in August, setting aside $325,000 to finance the work. According to Burroughs, the contractor may come in a little over the actual bid price of $230,000 before all is said and done.

By injecting a colored, neutral mist into the sewer system and looking for where it came out, contractors were able to pinpoint holes in the system.

The goal is to find holes in the pipes that could allow rain and groundwater into the system.

The two combined can account for millions of gallons a day of water flowing to the JWSC’s sewer treatment plants, driving up the cost of treating sewage.

Performing the test on the St. Simons Island sewer produced better results than utility officials expected.

The system was certainly not flawless, but it wasn’t as bad as some feared.

“In Brunswick, we found more defects but we tested more pipe, so we expected to find more defects,” Burroughs said. “Seven hundred sounds like a lot of defects, but when you’re testing over 100,000 feet of pipe that’s to be expected. I don’t want people thinking we found an unreasonable number of defects.”

Most of the problems on St. Simons Island were handled in-house, and Burroughs expects the same to be true of Brunswick.

“We’ve corrected the vast majority if not all of the public issues we found on St. Simons already. When they get the locations and addresses, we’ll start working on addressing them in Brunswick,” Burroughs said.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but Burroughs said the utility plans to perform similar tests on sections of the sewer system on the mainland north of Brunswick in the future.

“We’re going to do some internal smoke-testing in the north mainland area. They’re smaller basins and they’re newer, so we don’t expect many defects,” Burroughs said.

More from this section

Brad Piazza formed the company Port City Partners with the belief that downtown Brunswick is in the midst of a renaissance, and he and his wife want to be part of it.