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A short review is given on the many industrial uses of DMSO, to demonstrate the likelihood that residues from these industrial applications may be discharged into the sewer and are fed with sewage into municipal waste water treatment plants. Laboratory data show that concentrations of DMSO as low as 1 to 10 mg/L in bottled anoxic activated sludge can cause dimethyl sulfide DMS concentrations four orders of magnitude above odor threshold. The productivity of the DMSO reduction to DMS by anoxic activated sludge from three different WWTP is in the range of 29 to 73 μg g−1 h−1 (μg DMS g−1 VSS h−1). An aerobic acclimation period of five days for activated sludge reduced DMS formation significantly. A new interpretation of historical field data allows the conclusion that the decade old sporadic “canned corn” odor problem of the North East municipal WWTP (“NEWPCP”) of Philadelphia is likely caused by intermittently peaking industrial DMSO sewer discharge and lacking acclimation of the activated sludge to the treatment of DMSO and DMS. Sewage authorities are recommended to have waste water samples analyzed for DMSO and DMS if they have problems with “rotten cabbage” or “canned corn” odor and believe that the DMSO odor mechanism may apply. A source control of DMSO may then allow for mitigation of the odor using existing treatment technology, for example by achieving acclimation of activated sludge to the treatment of DMSO and DMS.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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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 These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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