Ooooh, That Smell

SOLID WASTE FACILITY MANAGERS will attest that nothing harms community relations like poor odor control. But help is on the way, thanks to the Washington, D.C.-based National Solid Wastes Management Association's (NSWMA) report, “Managing Solid Waste Facilities to Prevent Odor.” The report describes a variety of odor-control techniques that it says can help prevent offensive smells before they become an issue in the surrounding community.

The report notes that landfill gas (LFG), leachate and trash at a landfill's working face are the primary culprits of odors. The study, prepared with assistance from Baton Rouge, La.-based Shaw EMCON/OWT Inc. and Long Beach, Calif.-based SCS Engineers, also explains that a whole range of factors — including waste type, topography, weather, the size of the working face and the time it takes to unload and cover waste — can exacerbate the odors' strength.

Of course, “there is no ‘one size fits all’ standardized application of odor management practices,” the report says, “but there are numerous effective odor prevention and control measures with a proven success record.” The installation of an LFG collection and control system is “key to a proactive and successful odor management system,” the report adds. It is important to make sure that airtight seals be placed around all gas control equipment to prevent gas from escaping, according to the report.

Other strategies for controlling landfill odors include building drainage systems to reduce the infiltration of stormwater; creating specific handling procedures for construction and demolition debris, which can emit a potent smell when wet; building a temporary or permanent membrane landfill capping system; adjusting the types of waste accepted; and spraying odor-neutralizing chemicals along the boundary of the site. Landfill operators also could use an odor complaint log and build an onsite weather monitoring station “to compare odor complaints with operations information to determine possible causes,” the report says.

To mitigate odors at transfer stations, the report suggests station designers factor in the typical wind direction so that entrances and exits are placed in a way that reduces odor transmission. Additionally, the report suggests conducting as much of the waste handling process inside the facility as possible; routinely cleaning containers, catch basins, floor drains and drainage systems; and requiring pretreatment of particularly foul-smelling waste.

In its report, the NSWMA urges facility managers to be ready to work with the surrounding community if odors prove to be a problem. “When, and if, odor creates tension between a solid waste management facility and its neighbors, each must be committed to a cooperative dialogue, an openness to understanding the other's concerns and a willingness to find the best and most practical solution to the problem,” the report says. To obtain the full report, visit and click the “Research Bulletins” link.