• Location: San Marcos, TX (Texas State University)
Texas State University (TXST) selected B&N to perform a routine smoke test on campus for 27,000 linear feet (LF) of sanitary sewer mainlines. B&N is often completes smoke testing inspections over a designated area to identify all water infiltration sources and potential cross-connections in a sanitary sewer system and provide repair recommendations and associated costs. However, this project for TXST posed some unique challenges. 

Smoke Testing During COVID-19

B&N had a brief timeframe to conduct testing around campus before students returned for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic were also a consideration. The challenge B&N faced was to complete fieldwork and public outreach during a global pandemic, with protocols changing quickly to ensure public safety. All necessary safety precautions were followed to prioritize the safety of the community, the University and its students. To minimize contact tracing during the summer of 2020, B&N had to be safe, cautious and efficient.

Methodology and Qualifications

Communication is always essential when conducting efficient smoke testing, but it proved to be critical during a global pandemic. Before conducting any smoke testing in the field, communication with residents, property owners, the University, the City of San Marcos and the local police and fire departments had to occur. This early communication helps to establish four critical elements prior to smoke testing:

  1. Provides an overview of the project and benefits to the community
  2. Provides for a methodology to address and respond to community concerns
  3. Provides a way for the public to communicate with the University and B&N personnel during the duration of the project
  4. Communicate the project schedule and timeline
B&N distributed bilingual flyers to notify the public, as required by the University, at least 48 hours before smoke testing in particular areas. Local police and fire departments, University staff and City personnel were notified daily by email to inform them of the specific areas being smoke tested that day. B&N also utilized social media and targeted communication to stakeholders to minimize impacts to customers and neighbors.

Prioritizing System Longevity

In 2011, B&N performed a smoke testing inspection in San Marcos and the University. Due to B&N’s previous knowledge of the facilities, collaboration with University staff and the City of San Marcos and the prioritization of COVID-19 safety precautions, B&N was able to complete field investigations earlier than the required timeframe. The outcome of the testing resulted in the identification of solutions that will enhance the longevity of the sanitary sewer system at TXST.