The city of Muskegon is looking for ways to reduce costs. That's why for the next several week the department of public works employees will be blowing smoke into the sanitary sewer system.

The "smoke-testing" should reveal locations where storm water is entering the sanitary sewer system. The city wants to close those locations.

Tests began Monday, Oct. 24, in the Lakeside neighborhood. Further tests will focus on area west of Seaway Drive.

The smoke being forced into the sewer system should only come out from manhole covers. Smoke exiting roof vents, storm drains, or parking lot catch basins reveals areas where storm water has the potential to enter sewer pipes.

Mohammed Al-Shatel says the city sends about 120 million gallons of wastewater each month to the county's wastewater system. It cost around $6.2 million dollars annually to treat that sewer water.

The process should determine where storm water that shouldn't be in the sanitary sewer system is entering it. Sometimes its because of old forgotten connections and other times breaks in pipes. The end goal is a smaller sew bill for the city.

"We are trying to find ways to ensure the level of service continues to be as high as we can provide it," said Al-Shatel.

Monday city crews found a few small areas that need to be checked. Problem area will be fixed as soon as possible.

"If we find something that is allowing a lot of water to get in it would behoove us to jump on it and do what we can to separate it right now so we do not have to continue paying for treatment costs," said Al-Shatel.

The smoke is non-toxic. It's what's used for stage productions and concert venues. In the area near testing sites some residents may see smoke in their homes. That would happen if a home or garages' floor drains and traps aren't functioning properly. Residents should call the D.P.W. if they have any questions about the process.

The number is 231-724-4100.

Crews will be moving to other neighborhoods in the city over the coming weeks. The schedule in part depends on the weather.