As smoke billowed through Whitefish's alleyways and rooftops Thursday it was hard not to think the city's sewer system was haunted. Public Works employees were testing for leaks and signs of "clear water" in the system.
"Rainwater runoff, snow melt, and those sorts of things are getting into the sewer system and reporting out to the wastewater treatment plant," said civil engineer Paul Montgomery.
Clear water is actually bad for sewers - it can overwhelm the system and cause backups. It's something Montgomery and his engineering crew are trying to avoid as they make improvements on the city's multi-million dollar treatment facility.
"When we're redesigning and constructing a new plant we don't want to have to oversize it to handle the additional hydraulic load," Montgomery explained.
To test, crews sectioned off a portion of the sewer line and introduced smoke. The smoke is white, thick, and carries a slight odor, but it's a clear shot at which buildings are troublesome.
"We'll look at tapes and find out where those are at and work with the city on what's next on how to disconnect those," said Montgomery.
Montgomery and his consulting team will present their findings to the city as part of an engineering report.