Odor control is essential—but not always easy. Learn how to get the upper hand on this challenge, while weighing all your product options.

Joe Provenzano

Let’s face it. When noxious odors threaten the air quality at municipal solid waste (MSW) and composting facilities, these sites—and the communities surrounding them—need one thing: a breath of fresh air. Yet finding the right solution for industrial odor problems is not always a cakewalk.

Some landfill operators, composters and others handling waste sometimes have invested millions for robust odor management programs, yet still deal with foul odors because effective solutions are hard to find. In fact, many have given up hope—no longer believing that any product exists that can sufficiently control odors from municipal solid waste (MSW) and putrescible organics.

While every product offers unique advantages and disadvantages, choosing the right one for your facility could mean the difference between success and failure. Based on more than 10 years of experience in the field of industrial odor control, I have learned some valuable tips on controlling odors while keeping operating costs low and local communities happy.

Three Best Practices for Tackling the Toughest Odors

#1: Have an Odor Management Plan in Place, But Be Flexible

The first step in controlling odors is developing an odor management plan (OMP)—preferably in the facility development phase. This plan addresses several critical elements, such as site layout, system selection and design, and how you will manage operations to mitigate odor generation at each step of the process. If your facility does not develop an OMP in the planning stage, you will likely experience subsequent odor problems and complaints that will drive the need for an OMP as part of remediation efforts for odor control.

In many states, even though an OMP may be a regulatory requirement, successful odor control is often an ongoing process. For example, a composting facility may want to maintain the biological integrity of the composting process, but the practical aspects of facility operations may warrant revisions to the plan (either temporarily or permanently) to prevent offsite emissions and odor complaints. In other words, be open to change.

When attempting to control odors at a given site, it is essential to consider odor concentration and persistence at each phase of the decomposition process. This enables the site manager to plan operations that are compatible with existing meteorological conditions and adjust the plan as necessary to align with forecasted conditions.

#2: Know Your Options—and What Will Work Best with Existing Equipment

In the world of industrial odor control solutions, you have got several options and formulations—including the choice between powders and liquids. Which will work best for you? It depends on your facility type.

Typically, powders are most efficient for large, open-air sites like landfills and large composting facilities. Why? Compared to misting, powders are more cost-effective for targeting odor on large properties because the powders can be added to existing water trucks, enabling rapid, easy treatment of very large areas without the need for high capital expenditures. Users can broadcast the product over large areas, since the truck can shoot greater distances than a misting system. There is no need for additional labor, equipment or maintenance—it is already part of the facility’s current practice.

Sites with more confined target areas, such as transfer stations, MRFs and wastewater treatment plants, may prefer to use liquids that are dispersed through misting systems because liquids are formulated in concentrated form to be chemically injected into these misting systems (a stream of water), whereas powders are ready to use formulations. Since these facilities often have misting systems already installed, the liquid products can be easily integrated into those current systems, making them a cost-effective choice.

#3: Compare the Hard (and Soft) Costs

When weighing the value of powder versus misting, you cannot discount another factor—the hard costs.  The only feasible way to mist large sites is with large, portable water cannons, which can cost up to $100,000 each (excluding operational costs and ongoing maintenance) or perimeter misting, which requires large misting systems. One site was spending $7 per gallon for a misting product and $10 per gallon when factoring in maintenance costs. The additional maintenance associated with repairing or replacing fouled nozzles (due to products that crystallize or gum up) drove the actual cost even higher.

Therefore, if your facility prefers (or requires) misting, it is smart to find an odor control product that will not gum up or crystallize inside the nozzles. Several solutions are available. Compared to misting, powder solutions are much more affordable. Depending on the facility size and water truck capacity, powder systems cost between $50 and $150 per application. Typically, a facility will require between one treatment per day to one treatment every three to five days. However, the rate depends on environmental conditions, facility size, type and volume of waste materials, population density and proximity of neighboring communities.

Putting It All Together

Odor may be one of the most oppressive challenges facing the waste industry today. It is certainly the most common cause of adverse publicity, regulatory pressure and facility closures, which means it warrants careful consideration. Whether you are supporting a landfill, composting facility, materials recovery facility (MRF), transfer station or wastewater treatment plant, your plan for odor control is an essential tool in your arsenal and an important key to your long-term success.

Joe Provenzano is President of Odor No More, and VP of Operations for the company’s parent BioLargo, Inc. (Westminster, CA), leading a dedicated team of experts that bring best-in-class science to industrial odor control. Joe and his team have helped many waste facilities control odors effectively with patented safe and environmentally friendly products. Joe can be reached at (949) 643-9540 or e-mail [email protected].