Answers to frequently asked questions about the sewer vapour testing program for Sunderland Bay in May 2024.

Our sewer system monitoring program of the Sunderland Bay and Surf Beach area revealed a strong correlation between rainfall events and increases in wastewater volumes.

Vapour testing will help Westernport Water to comply with environmental regulations and standards related to sewer system integrity and pollution prevention.

Infiltration from rainfall events to the sewer system directly impacts wastewater treatment plant and sewerage pump stations and can lead to system failures.

Identifying leaks, cracks and other defects in sewer lines proactively can enable early detection of leaks and can prevent pollution to the environment.

Vapour testing involves introducing a non-toxic vapour into the sewer system, usually through a manhole. If there are any leaks or openings in the sewer lines, the vapour will escape from these points and become visible above ground.

In some circumstances, the vapour may appear around houses and coming from gutters of buildings, it can look like smoke, but it is not.

Westernport Water will notify the occupants by mail and will inform the local fire brigade and police of where they will be conducting vapour testing each day.

If you have any doubt as to the source of the vapour in your home or yard, phone 000 immediately.

In some cases, customers may need to pay for repairs to be done on their properties – we will support these customers by providing tailored and discreet assistance where needed.

If issues are identified with the sewerage reticulation system, Westernport Water will undertake necessary repairs.

Westernport Water will contact you via two letters. The first will be project information and the second will notify you of the specific dates of works at least 7 days prior to vapour test and inspections.

Westernport Water will need to enter your yard. We will not need to enter your house. You do not need to be home.

When you receive a follow up letter detailing the dates of the inspection for your property, please lock up or control your dog/pets on the day of the test.

No, vapour from the testing should not enter your home.

The vapour testing program is designed to detect leaks in the sewer system by introducing a non-toxic, non-staining vapour into the system. This vapour will only escape through leaks in the sewer pipes and should not enter homes or other structures.

If vapour from the testing enters your home, it indicates that there is a direct connection from the sewer network to inside your home, which could have the potential of harmful sewer gases that can cause health issues.

For example, showers, toilets and sinks should have a P-trap or S-trap fitted to prevent this. If there is a shower, toilet and/or sink that does not get used often, the P-trap or S-trap may have dried up, it is recommended to run the tap for 10-20 seconds to re-fill the P or S trap prior to works.

If the vapour enters your home, although it is not expected to, it may make you cough, but the vapour is

  • Non-toxic
  • Non-staining and odorless
  • Harmless to humans, pets, plants, food and material goods
  • Creates no fire hazard

If vapour enters your house, it’s important to notify our workers onsite (a contact name and number will be provided prior to testing) via the letter provided.

If possible, identify source of vapour and open windows/doors. Vapour should clear within a few minutes after the vapour machine is turned off.

Yes, it may trigger the smoke alarm if vapour enters your house. If possible, open windows/doors for ventilation and notify our workers in the area. If you have any doubts about the origin of the smoke, please call 000.

Yes, the vapour used in the testing is non-toxic and safe if inhaled. The vapour is usually composed of a harmless substance, such as a food-grade additive or a non-toxic smoke, that is safe for humans, animals and the environment. However, we recommend not deliberately inhaling the vapour.

If there is an individual in your home or business who has severe respiratory problems and/or mobility limitations, or if you have any additional questions, please contact Westernport Water at 1300 720 711 prior to testing.

The project is scheduled to take between 3-5 business days. This may increase/change based on weather conditions.

It takes approximately 15 minutes per household inspection. A number of households (up to 20) will be undergoing vapour testing at the same time therefore there could be some evidence of vapour in close proximity to your property for approximately two hours.