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Some local residents reportedly became alarmed Monday upon seeing smoke rise from the ground and from an abandoned house on the south side of town.

It wasn’t a Halloween prank or unexplained phenomena. The El Dorado Water Utilities provided a simple explanation.

John Peppers, treatment superintendent, said crews were in the Rock Island neighborhood searching for an abandoned wastewater service line at a vacant house in the area.

Peppers said workers were smoke-testing the line — a process that forces air and smoke into a manhole to see if smoke escapes from the ground, an indication of damage to a wastewater line.

Smoke may also blow through the vent stacks on the roofs of houses nearby, Peppers previously explained.

In the case on Monday, Peppers said the smoking process would also let crews know if the old wastewater line was disconnected from the house.

During the summer, the water utilities launched a long-term smoking project to identify and repair inflow and infiltration problems in the city’s wastewater collection system.

Smoking helps locate problem areas and prevent sanitary sewer overflows and excess water from entering the system, Peppers said then.

At the time, the utilities took steps to notify the El Dorado Fire Department and the public so that citizens would not become alarmed if they unexpectedly saw smoke in their yards or houses.

Peppers said the project has been temporarily suspended because crews have been pulled onto other EWU projects.

“We have put the (long-term) smoking program on hold until we have enough manpower to start it back up again,” he said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@

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