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TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS: THE ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL MALODOR COMPLAINT RESPONSE STRATEGY

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Abstract:

Communities demand that corporations operating within their neighborhoods operate in a manner that is not only protective of the environment, but also respectful of neighborhood quality of life. Waste Management of Pennsylvania, Inc. (“WMPA”) faced the challenges of being a good corporate neighbor when expanded operations at one of its Pennsylvania landfills led to increased malodor complaints from residents of a nearby community. The complaints related to methane gas and daily disposal of municipal solid waste.

WMPA is successfully implementing a malodor complaint response plan that includes:



short-term actions to address immediate odor issues;


long-term actions to permanently address malodor sources and other sources of complaints; and


community relations efforts to foster communication, trust, and relationship building.


District-wide support and commitment from within the company have been critical to the success of WMPA's malodor complaint response strategy. Legal counsel was involved in the development of the odor response plan to address concerns about threatened or pending litigation and permit compliance.

WMPA responded immediately to malodor complaints by appointing an odor task force within the company, the objectives of which were evaluation of odor sources and identification of odor control technologies. The task force consisted of a team of landfill engineers, community relations experts, management-level personnel and lawyers. The task force evaluated the merits and feasibility of odor-suppressant technologies. The most promising technologies were tested and evaluated using feedback and odor observations from the community as measures of performance.

In terms of long-term actions, WMPA's task force evaluated and implemented operational changes designed to minimize odor impacts on the community. Such changes have included sequencing of disposal areas, scheduling of waste deliveries, limiting the size of the working face and modifying daily cover procedures. Improvements were made to the landfill gas management plan. All operational changes were evaluated to ensure compliance with permit requirements. A WMPA quality assurance manager monitors the effectiveness of odor control systems. The quality assurance manager's daily visits with residents foster relationships with the community and build trust.

WMPA maintains an extensive community outreach program. A priority is providing immediate and forthright responses to community concerns. WMPA operates the “Fact Phone”, a 24-hour year-round telephone service dedicated to landfill issues. The Fact Phone operator directs questions to WMPA personnel, and can connect callers directly to landfill personnel. WMPA is committed to responding to calls within one half-hour.

The long-term community relations program also includes community education about landfill operations. WMPA's landfill tours clarify the technology and operations at the landfill, and provide a forum for open dialogue with the residents. WMPA representatives serve on a community committee dedicated to landfill issues. WMPA's participation on the committee creates additional opportunities for landfill education and open dialogue. Recently, the committee alerted WMPA to concerns about birds along the riverfront and lights emanating from the landfill and WMPA responded through operational changes. The committee works with WMPA, a professional landscaping firm and a local nonprofit organization to improve aesthetics at the landfill. Further, WMPA's corporate giving program, which includes student scholarships, education grants and financial donations, reinforces the residents' understanding that WMPA is committed to investing in their community.

A corporation's successful response to malodor complaints requires the corporation's continuing leadership, shared vision for long-term solutions, and commitment to implement the strategy.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2175/193864702785140258

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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