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Sensory Assessment and Characterization of Odor Nuisance Emissions during the Composting of Wastewater Biosolids

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Compost plants produce odorous compounds that can cause an “odor nuisance” to neighbors. Methods to evaluate odors exist, but they are not relevant for determining olfactory nuisance. The objectives of this study were to characterize by sensory means the odor nuisance (character and intensity) from composting plants that treat raw biosolids from wastewater plants. Research determined odor character and intensity by the “odor profile method” from raw biosolids, off-gases from the final compost product, and air samples from compost processing. Odor nuisance categories were defined on a “compost odor wheel”. Eleven odor categories were determined from a total of 45 observed primary and secondary odor notes: (1) fishy/ammonia; (2) fragrant/fruity; (3) terpene/pine/lemon; (4) solventy/hydrocarbon; (5) grassy/woody/smoky; (6) earthy/musty/moldy; (7) rancid; (8) putrid/dead animal; (9) sweet; (10) sulfur/cabbage/garlic; and (11) fecal/sewery. The odor profile method and the compost odor wheel are suggested as a way to define odor nuisance from a compost plant.
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Keywords: Odor nuisance; compost odor wheel; composting; odor profile method

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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