Smoke test coming to a Fenwick Island sewer near you

Concerned that stormwater may be leaking into the Fenwick Island sewer system, officials are proposing to smoke out the problem.

People have been complaining about a stinky, gaseous smell at various spots along Route 1’s commercial zone. The Sussex County Engineering Department has suggested stormwater (or nearby marsh water) may be getting in the pipes. That inflow of extra water in the system can burden the whole system.

“You walk outside and you can smell sewer gas. I know we’ve experienced that,” said Mayor Gene Langan.

Smoke tests allow engineers to test airflow in the system. With high-capacity blowers, County engineers will pump artificial smoke into manholes. In an ideal situation, the smoke will only exit the line through manhole lids and house vents on the rooftops. But smoke will filter out of any leaks, identifying any problem areas. A common problem is broken cleanout valves.

During the testing, smoke may come into buildings, through cracked pipes, garbage disposals or other weak spots. It is not a fire hazard, officials noted, but people should ventilate their homes or businesses if smoke appears inside.

The location of the crack determines who fixes it. Residents are responsible for repairs on their property, while the County will handle anything on its side of the cleanout, said Rodney Marvel, assistant director of the Department of Environmental Services within the County’s Engineering Department.

The testing won’t affect the entire town. Mostly businesses and a few residents will be impacted, officials said. The County will contact them all beforehand to explain the smoke test.

The date for the test has not been scheduled, but it will likely occur during a quiet morning in March. There is no cost to the Town.

Also discussed at the Feb. 24 Fenwick Island Town Council meeting:

• About 26 bicycles can park conformably in the new bike rack at the town park.

• Fenwick will be included in the 28th Annual Beach Grass Planting, hosted March 18, from 9 a.m. to noon at various beaches. Since 1990, the public has helped protect Delaware’s sand dunes by planting Cape American beach grass, providing stability to the ocean and bayside beaches. Register for the planting online at or by calling (302) 739-9921.

• Councilwoman Julie Lee’s “Town Talks” will begin again on March 25 at 10 a.m. at Town Hall, as “an opportunity for us to continue a dialogue beyond the council meeting.” Topics include streets, sidewalks, flooding and road resurfacing.

• All Fenwick citizens are welcome to attend a coffee to welcome new Town Manager Teresa “Terry” Tieman, to be hosted March 24 at 2:30 p.m. at town hall by the Fenwick Island Society of Homeowners (FISH).

• The Business Development Committee will host a community breakfast on Thursday, March 23, starting at 8 a.m., to discuss and promote off-season events planned for this autumn.

• With wild seals often swimming to shore for a rest, the public is being reminded to stay at least 150 feet away from the animal and call MERR at (302) 228-5029, so a volunteer can come to assess its health and watch until it returns to the water. People are being asked not to report the seal’s presence on social media until after the seal has rested and swum away.

• The town council voted unanimously (with Councilman Roy Williams absent) to donate $150 for a program ad in the annual Springtime Jamboree organized by state Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. All funds raised this year will benefit River Soccer Club.

The Fenwick Island Town Council’s next regular meeting is Friday, March 24, at 3:30 p.m.