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Nearly all wastewater utilities must deal with nuisance odor complaints. A systematic response to odor complaints will minimize the amount of effort spent dealing with the issue and minimize the potential for litigation and other negative outcomes. Understanding what prompts people to complain and having an organized method of receiving, recording, investigating, and resolving the complaint will benefit the public welfare and may help to protect a utility from legal and financial liability.

Odor investigations should begin as soon as a complaint is received. Staff trained to collect information in a consistent and systematic manner should record complaint details. Once the complaint information is obtained, properly equipped staff should be at the scene of the reported odor as soon as possible to collect additional information. Gas monitors and weather monitoring equipment should be standard equipment for investigating odors but the investigators own nose, ears and eyes are the most valuable tools to assess the severity and source of the odors. After the investigation phase is completed there must be final resolution of the complaint. In many cases the source of the odor can be determined and corrected so that the problem does not reoccur. It is often the case, however, that the odor is not present during the field investigation and that the source can not be positively identified.

This paper provides useful tools and strategies on how an effective odor investigation can be conducted. Details on how odor complaints can be received and field investigations can be performed are provided. Information on meteorological and odorous compound data collection is included and methods of finally resolving the complaint to the satisfaction of the public and the utility are included.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004

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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 These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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