How to respond to odour complaints
As communities and industries get located in closer and closer proximity to one another, the risks of community impacts and complaints grows. This is the reality of urban creep. It creates a need for industries to adjust to the new normal. One of the most sensitive issues in terms of community awareness is offensive odours, and yet many industries are prone to producing these odours in their normal daily operation.
Wastewater networks and treatment plants contain organic waste, with microbial activity in the water as it flows through the system. Uncontrolled breakdown of organic matter leads to a release of H2S, which is also known as rotten egg gas due to its pungent odour. Landfill sites have similar problems. Every time the landfill material is disturbed or turned over, there is a release of odours from microbial activity.
Abattoirs deal with animal products and waste as well as the manure deposited by animals. Food processing uses high volumes of water and generates waste with high oxygen demand and a variety of VOCs, which could cause odours.
Identifying odour sources and developing solutions can be a complex process. OdourPro offers consulting services to help you minimise your odour complaints.
Companies can take these sequential steps to resolve community odour complaints:
1. Get as much information as possible
When a community complaint is received for odour, it is important to obtain as much information as possible. This helps reassure the person that you are taking their complaint seriously, and also helps identify the source. Ask questions to prompt the caller to tell you more about what they are experiencing:
- What type of odour is it? How would you describe the smell? What can you compare it to that smells similar to this odour?
- How intense is the odour - very intense or mild? Does it come and go or is it continuous?
- Have you smelt this odour before? When? Does it always happen at the same time of day? How often does it happen?
- What is the wind direction? Is there a pattern of odour matching a specific wind direction?
2. Identify the source
The first step in identifying the source of an odour is to determine whether it is coming from your site. Although industrial sites are an obvious potential source of odour, there are often many different sites operating in an area, Complaints are often lodged with the most visible industry, but other smaller sites may also be contributors.
Once you have positively determined that the odour does come from your site, investigate the potential causes based on the information you have collected. The odour complaint may tie up with a particular operational activity. Further investigation may discover how they are related.
Where internal investigations fail to find the source, call in expert help. OdourPro offers consulting services to help companies identify odour problems and propose solutions.
3. Develop remedial plans
A number of odour control technologies are available to solve odour problems:
- Chemical dosing systems prevent the emission of H2S and its offensive odour.
- Biofilters and carbon filters remove odour compounds from point sources where the vapour stream can be isolated.
- Odour neutralising solutions treat odours in the atmosphere by spraying or misting neutralising agents into the air.
OdourPro works with our clients to implement a solution that solves their odour problems. Depending on the nature of the problem, remedial actions could be immediate or take several months to implement.
4. Feedback to the community
Many companies stop at the point of solving the problem but forget to give feedback to their community about the actions they have taken. Closing this loop improves industry / community relationships and provides a positive platform for future engagement. This is especially important when remedial action is taking some time. Where possible, keep the community informed of interim measures and long-term solutions.
How are others responding to odour complaints?
AB Mauri is a yeast producer in Western Sydney. Their wastewater treatment system was creating odours and causing community complaints. OdourPro implemented an odour neutralising system, which sprays a neutralising agent into the air at 44 strategic locations around the site. Odour complaints from the community have since stopped completely and AB Mauri developed a positive relationship with the authorities too due to their proactive response.
Coffs Harbour city council
An active pumping station in Coffs Harbor was located close to residents creating complaints about noise, safety and odour. Investigations revealed a non-compliant and non-sealing access cover. OdourPro supplied and installed a new cover that solved the problem and provided additional safety features for council workers.
Consequences of non-compliance
Authorities enforce strict penalties for non-compliance and failure to respond to odour complaints. Fines can accumulate on a daily basis until the problem is rectified, placing pressure on industry to understand their processes and take proactive measures.
Besides the risk of fines, odour complaints also lead to negative publicity. Media and social media attention causes damage to your reputation. Once credibility between a community and nearby industry is damaged, it takes a long time to rebuild positive relationships.
Odour complaints have the potential to damage your relationships with the community and draw the attention of authorities. OdourPro offers consulting services to help you identify odour sources and develop appropriate remedial actions.
OdourPro on 21 November 2016
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