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Odors are one of the primary complaints from the public regarding biosolids management practices. In the past four years, USEPA and other institutions have raised the issue of odors as a potential health problem. This concern has been primarily focused on animal waste, wastewater and biosolids facilities.

Odiferous compounds emitted from wastewater and biosolids management facilities are primarily the result of numerous nitrogen and sulfur compounds. Odors associated with biosolids are volatile organic and inorganic compounds. Many of these odors are the result of bacterial decomposition of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in organic material.

Infrequent or periodic odor incidences are often considered as being a nuisance. However, persistent odors may illicit health complaints such as headaches, stress, and other physiological symptoms. These conditions may trigger concern that chemicals or bioaerosols are being released, which may cause health effects.

There has not been any documented evidence that odors emitted from land application sites, composting or other biosolids management activities have caused health problems to workers or the general public. There have been very few citations linking odors from wastewater treatment plants to public health.

The objectives of this paper are to provide knowledge on odors as a health issue and to indicate to wastewater and biosolids the importance of dealing with odor issues immediately to avoid public reaction and legal actions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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