Smoking out sewer problems in Mt. Sterling

(Posted July 15, 2020)

By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer

Mount Sterling residents might see smoke gathering in their homes at the end of the month, but village officials say not to worry. It will be on purpose.

On July 13, village council members discussed a “smoke test” of the community’s sanitary sewer system set to take place on July 30. The Ohio Rural Water Association, an organization that works with rural communities to ensure water quality, will conduct the test. Municipalities pay into the organization to obtain training and equipment for conducting such tests.

Courtney Bricker, Mount Sterling’s fiscal officer, said sewer problems have backed up to the point of causing issues at the water plant.

“There’s unwanted or unneeded water being processed at the water plant, and it’s been that way for several years,” she said. “We had to replace three gear boxes that were $18,000 in value.”

The smoke test will help officials locate leaks or faulty pipes.

“In the past, this actually made people sick from the fumes from sewage,” Bricker said. “So, we’re helping the residents inside their homes, along with helping the village find this water down at the sewer plant.”

Ohio Rural Water will send crews out that will run the test in shifts, Bricker said.

“You’ll see (crews) opening manholes and putting this liquid smoke through there,” she explained. “If they do find smoke coming through people’s houses, there is a corrective action planned.”

Bricker said the smoke isn’t harmful or toxic to residents, but if residents experience any issues, they should contact the village.

The Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the test. If the issue isn’t corrected, the village could be fined more than $20,000 per day until it is corrected.

“It is helpful for everybody. It does give them an understanding that some of their plumbing releases some of those gases into people’s houses, so it does help residents identify if there are problems,” Bricker said.

The village will post information in a variety of public places, including the library and fire department. The village also will notify emergency services and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office about the test.

For more information, residents can call the village office at (740) 869-2040 or visit

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