Building Inspection Program

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Public Information for the Building Inspection Program

Summer 2016



The purpose of the combined sewer overflow (CSO) control activities is to identify and remove sources of stormwater flow from the collection system in an effort to reduce the number of CSOs.  General goals of a conveyance assessment program are to find and reduce defects in the wastewater collection system, help control wet weather flows, eliminate future wastewater overflows and backups, and aid in infrastructure improvement and rehabilitation.  Eliminating wet weather-induced problems helps reduce costs of excessive relief sewer construction and protects the health and well-being of the public and the environment. In an effort to identify sources of stormwater flow in the collection system, the City is conducting a number of field activities that include but are not limited to:

  • Building inspections
  • Dye testing
  • Catch basin inspections

What is a Building Inspection?

There are many ways to inspect a sanitary sewer system to determine defects and their locations.  Among these are smoke testing, dye testing, and closed-circuit TV (CCTV) inspections.  Frequently though, even these methods cannot conclusively locate every defect on private properties. In these cases, door-to-door surveys are performed.  The goal of building inspections is to determine potential inflow and infiltration sources such as: sump pumps, floor drains, roof drains and driveway drains that might facilitate the influx of stormwater into the sewer line.




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Building Inspection Process

»  Notification via letter prior to starting building inspections in your neighborhood.
»  A building survey team, typically consisting of two people, will be going door-to-door to conduct inspections.
»  The inspectors will arrive in well-identified field vehicles and have ID badges.
»  A minimum of two attempts will be made to conduct the inspection at each building.
»  After two unsuccessful attempts, the City may contact the property owner via door hanger, letter or phone call in  attempt to complete the building inspection.  

What is the City Looking for?

Building Inspections 5

A typical residence may have several potential defects allowing stormwater to enter sanitary sewer system.  It is important to note that there are two separate  systems:  the stormwater drainage system and the sanitary sewer system.  the stormwater drainage system simply collects stormwater and carries it elsewhere, eventually releasing it into the ground, to be returned to the aquifer or releasing it to local waterways.  The sanitary sewer system, however, must be a "closed" system.  Wastewater and chemicals contained in the sanitary system canot be released in the ground or local waterways but must be properly treated at an approved treatment plant.  There should not be any "communication" between these two systems.  If stormwater from a driveway drain, for example, is being introduced into the sanitary sewer system, this can overload the system and cause overflows.  It is critical that these "lines of communication" be identified and repaired.  This is why the City is actively trying to inspect all Newport properties.  

Other types of defects you might see include roof downspouts, uncapped cleanouts (pictured obove), yard or area drains, foundation perimeter drains or defective service pipes.  

How is My Residence Connected to the Sanitary Sewer System?  

When a residence is built, a segment of pipe (a "service lateral") is laid to connect the residence's wastewater products (toilets, showers, sinks) to the sanitary sewer system.  Driveway drains, stairwell drains, foundation drains and sump pumps should not be connected to this service lateral, as these carry stromwater and not wastewater.  However, it was frequently the case that when a house was built in the pat, these drains were routed into the service lateral.  These drains may also be routed to a building's sump pump, and instead of discharging the stormwater onto the ground, the sump pump discharges the stormwater into the service lateral.

Typical Private Sector 

Building Inspections 6

What Happens After a Defect is Found on My Property?

When defects found to be contributing stormwater flow to the sanitary system are identified at a private property, the property owner is contacted via letter by the City requesting that they correct the defect per the City's Sewer Use Ordinance.  Once the property owner has corrected the defect, they are asked to make an appointment with the City's contractor, CH2M Hill, to verify that the stormwater source has been permanently removed from the wastewater collection system.

 Building Inspections 7

Example of a roof downspout that has been disconnected so water is diverted to ground surface.                                                                                                                             

What is Dye Testing?

   Building Inspections 7

At buildings where additional testing is needed to confirm which system a defect is connected to, a simple procedure known as "dye-testing" is utilized by the building inspection crews. 

The building inspection crews use water contained on their work trucks to pump into roof downspouts, area drains, or other suspect defects found at homes.  The water is pumped through a hose into the suspect defect.  A dye tablet is placed into the defect as water is being pumped into the defect opening. 

The dye tablet dissolves in the water, creating fluorescent yellow-green colored water.  The dyed water will then be traced to the stormwater drainage system or the sanitary sewer system.  This dye test provides concrete confirmation on whether rainwater is entering the sanitary sewer system through the identified potential defect.

The dye used for this procedure is non-toxic and specifically designed for sewer system dye testing and can be easily washed off of surfaces with clean water.  The dye is not harmful to people or the environment.

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A telescoping "shepherd's hook" tool has been specifically designed for dye testing of roof downspouts in Newport.

Study Area Schedule

In 2016, the inspection program will be focused on downspout disconnections and scheduled first time building inspections throughout the City.

The City will be performing disconnection verification inspections at properties throughout the City that have reported completed disconnections but that have not yet been verified.  

Have you already disconnected your downspout, but the disconnection hasn’t been verified? Please contact the City’s contractor CH2M HILL at 617-626-7007, or by email at to schedule your verification disconnection during our 2016 inspection program. You do not need to be home for a downspout disconnection verification. If you would like, when you report your downspout disconnection, please tell CH2M HILL that they have permission to access the exterior of your property to verify the disconnected downspouts. 

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