In many industrial and municipal settings, bad smells come with the territory.
In many industrial and municipal settings, bad smells come with the territory. From wastewater treatment to food and beverage processing to pharmaceutical production and beyond, foul odors are a common challenge.
In some cases, these odors become enough of a problem that action must be taken. And while facility managers or owners may know they have an odor issue, they may not know what next steps they must take.
It starts by collecting as much information about the problem as possible.
Understanding the problem
The fact that foul smells are released from municipal or industrial sites alone is not enough to determine whether an odor control system is needed. Other important questions need to be answered, too:
- Who’s complaining about the odor?
- Where specifically is the odor coming from?
- Why is the odor occurring?
- Are there applicable local, state or federal statutes that require odor treatment to stay compliant?
The answers will help determine whether—and to what extent—an odor control solution is needed. Below, we’ll discuss the triggering events that may lead owners to seek one.
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Most often, nuisance odor complaints come from residents, commuters, business owners and shoppers who live, drive, work or shop near facilities that emit unpleasant odors. The continued outward spread of residential and commercial development puts people closer to facilities that previously were far enough away not to bother anyone. A facility may always have emitted odors, and those odors were likely tolerated by facility workers, but the public does not share that tolerance.
If nuisance complaints aren’t addressed, a few bad things can happen:
- Your facility may be considered “a bad neighbor” due to the smells coming from it. It’s never ideal to make enemies of your neighbors.
- Persistent nuisance odors that aren’t addressed may cause nearby residents and businesses to leave, depressing local property values and economic activity.
- Many odorous compounds are hazardous to human health at high concentrations. Ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are just two examples, but the list is long. Serious legal consequences are possible if neighbors start questioning whether your facility’s odors are detrimental to their health.
- Local municipalities or other governmental authorities may be authorized to penalize your plant if persistent complaints are ignored.
New or expanded processes
When facilities introduce new or expanded processes, odors that previously didn’t bother anyone nearby may become a nuisance. It can happen in almost any industry, but we see it a lot in brewing and distilling operations and cheese processing facilities during expansion, to name a few.
Many local authorities only allow direct discharge of wastewater up to a certain volume. When wastewater output exceeds that volume, facilities may be required to integrate on-site wastewater treatment. These systems frequently emit odors which must be addressed.
While most odor control systems are installed to address nuisance complaints, foul odors usually are harmful to people at high concentrations. Some are also harmful to the environment. When the health of workers, the public or the environment is at risk, public health authorities step in—from federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration down to state and municipal authorities.
Consider the following examples of how odor treatment by BioAir Solutions has helped firms achieve or maintain statutory compliance:
First, an industrial odor control system we installed at a waste processing plant in the Pacific Northwest served two purposes: It eliminated pungent ammonia odors that caused nuisance complaints from nearby residents and brought ammonia concentrations back to within acceptable ranges as regulated by OSHA.
Second, we installed odor control on the grounds of a penicillin manufacturer in Puerto Rico to eliminate hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans odors emitted from the plant. The treatment brought the plant into compliance with local regulatory standards.
We’ve also seen facility owners take proactive steps to address odors to ensure their employees have safe, healthy working conditions.
Inadequate existing odor control
Another common source of odor complaints results when existing treatment systems no longer control odors. It can happen when:
- Odor control systems become less effective over time due to wear.
- A facility’s odorous air output exceeds the treatment system’s ability to manage it.
- A process in the facility has changed, resulting in an odor the existing system is unable to eliminate.
Knowing there’s a problem is a critical first step, but it’s important to have an in-depth understanding of why. Read this case study to see how we crafted an upgraded odor control system to ensure Australia’s largest brewery stayed in the good graces of its nearby neighbors.