How waste management operators are dealing with new challenges to operate in residential areas as land conflicts arise.
By Alex Zamudio

Odor impacts liveability. It is the reason for a large number of complaints made to environmental authorities and in communities—with landfills often listed as the top source. Operators with odor issues generate hundreds of complaints per month. These complaints are often supported by a range of external data—from odor diaries and sniff tests to formal air quality monitoring systems set up by investigators.

Communities are increasingly impatient about slow and indecisive responses to odor complaints, so it is more important than ever that operators can minimize uncertainty, and reduce the time between a problem occurring and a solution being actioned.

For operators, odor management is a complex and increasingly technology-driven process. Outside factors such as meteorological conditions play a part in management approaches and need to be modeled with internal data to make abatement and control measures effective.

Left: Environmental Intelligence systems can help operators at waste
management sites to cut through complex data and lower investigation times of odor issues.
Right: Waste operators can act on unfolding air quality and odor issues in real-time to prevent them from becoming bigger problems in the community.

New Challenges in Waste Management as Urban Sprawls
A new set of challenges driving unprecedented change in the waste management sector include:
• Residential populations are brought into closer proximity to previously isolated waste and industrial facilities
• Landfill site operators with legacy facilities permits are under community pressure to modernize to meet quality-of-life expectations
• External researchers are pouring pressure by using GIS, census and satellite data to assess the suitability of locations for solid waste management
• Communities are more concerned about air quality issues caused by waste management centers and industrial sites

How to (Re)build Trust within the Community
As cities sprawl and communities come into closer proximity with waste sites, sustainable operations have never been more critical. Sustainable landfill operations stand on three pillars:

  1. Compliance
  2. Optimization
  3. Community engagement

Communities are redefining their relationship with waste management sites where odor emissions and air quality have the most impact due to uninformed operational decisions that can lead to compliance breach. It is crucial that communities, regulators and the industry need to be able to trust each other that they are doing the best they can in the best interests of everybody involved. That requires an open conversation and an end to negative actions. Communities lose faith in operators that are perceived to care only about money, and not about community safety or environmental concerns.

Nowadays, residentials contact landfill sites directly as they can easily find information of rankings and reviews on the Internet. Communities now have a voice, an open opportunity to engage with a waste facility operator and the ability to suggest actions or influence operations, are more likely to accept the facility’s ongoing presence. They are also less likely to lodge complaints with authorities, since they can be confident of gaining a direct audience with the operator, with a high likelihood of open dialogue and positive action or redress.

Predictive odor risk reports can provide a 72-hour window into the future so operators can plan ahead for high-risk shifts.

The Power of Environmental Intelligence in Waste Management
Over the past five years we have seen a significant change in the technologies available for odor detection. Only a decade ago, odor detection and management required specialist precise equipment. Now, operators can use small, cheap sensors and low-power communications for the same purpose. Data collected from these devices can be transmitted to a central point and run through environmental intelligence platforms to identify patterns and uncover insights that can inform interventions, such as misting controls, covers, methane management and other onsite mitigation techniques.

Environmental intelligence tools enable operators to comply with permitted conditions, optimize odor mitigations, and hold conversations with government agencies and communities that build and engender trust in the handling of environmental concerns. Environmental intelligence systems provide a ‘bird’s eye view’ of operations, helping operators to understand what is happening and what could happen next.

Environmental intelligence is a technology-driven process, that harnesses the power of big data, artificial intelligence, and analytics tools to produce real-time visualizations, predictive modeling and actionable insights. Environmental intelligence solutions help in mitigating the risks from multiple parameters in real-time (air quality, noise, odor, water), run simulations of environmental conditions and detect potential issues before they occur or impact surrounding communities.

Using meteorological modeling can pinpoint likely sources of odor complaints in the community.
Images courtesy of Envirosuite.

Operators can calculate odor at specific locations within their site and outside its boundaries to understand any potential impact now and up to 72 hours into the future. They can also pinpoint the likely source of odor complaints to drastically shorten investigation times. These insights can be shared with local residents to help the site avoid problems, reduce costs and maintain a good reputation in the communities you serve.

Environmental intelligence has made it easier for operators at waste management and wastewater treatment sites to properly manage their risk of impact. New methods are now empowering operators with actionable insights to prevent/mitigate impact, better manage community complaints and enhance overall efficiency at their sites.

With environmental intelligence solutions, operators can easily identify the right periods to schedule specific activities and avoid offsite impacts. Operators can get a 48-hour window into the future using insights from predictive models that leverage emissions and weather data. This enables teams to concentrate work toward periods of minimal emission risk, while staying notified in real time for any potential issue in the future. | WA

Alex Zamudio is Environmental Intelligence Advisor at Envirosuite and the company’s leading Advisor in the Eastern U.S. region, helping organizations in waste, wastewater and industrial operations transform their business and increase value-creation across the board through Environmental Intelligence. Alex has more than 15 years of experience helping clients succeed through digital transformation and continues to drive Envirosuite’s growth in the region by providing operators with intelligent tools that help them maintain their social license and increase operational efficiencies. A pioneer of EI solutions, Envirosuite has more than three decades of experience working in the environmental risk management space and assisting industrial operations to build better relationships with their host communities.

Thanks to their deep roots in science, today’s Envirosuite is the global leader with capabilities across Air, Noise, Water and Vibration. With a presence spanning five regions across the world, their team is ready to bring the power of environmental intelligence to the world. For more information, call (916) 265-7700, e-mail [email protected] or visit