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Odour (Odor) Control & Management


Most commonly seen as a condition of an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) or part of an application to rezone land around an existing industry, Rubidium Environment can support facilities in Ontario by conducting odour impacting assessments and odour testing. Whether in response to neighbour complaints, or Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) request, developing an effective odour management plan is important. This is an area where Rubidium excels past our competition.

Our international experience in the measurement and design of odour controls give us incredible insight that we can apply to your facility. Often as a result of poor monitoring programs, off-property impacts are often miscalculated. Understanding the nature of the source is imperative to determining the best methods of measurement and analysis in developing the odour management plan.

Our team of engineers and scientists can assist you in developing a practical and effective odour management plan. Often there are opportunities to minimize off-property impact by analyzing the process, and ensuring proper operation of the equipment: all without the need to install odour abatement equipment including comprehensive ventilation systems coupled with treatment equipment such as bio-filters, scrubbers, and thermal oxidizers.

But what exactly is odour?

Just like other air contaminants, industrial odour control is regulated in Ontario by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). In the same way that there is a point of impingement (POI) limit for contaminants such as benzene, hydrochloric acid, and chromium, odour also has a POI limit. But the difference is that contaminants like benzene have POI limit measured in µg/m3, whereas odour is represented as an odour unit per cubic metre (OU/m3).

What is an Odour Unit?

An odour Odour unit (OU), or 1 OU is defined as the point where 50% of the population can smell the odour. This is referred to as the perception threshold. At first this can seem somewhat subjective, however, the perception of odour is a physiological response. Yes it is true that some people are more sensitive to smells, however, this is accounted for in how odour is evaluated. In Ontario, odour evaluation requires a “calibrated” set of panelists, essentially “trained noises” that have been determined to have a quality of smell that falls within what is considered a normal range. This is achieved using a standard calibration gas which is presented to the panelists through a machine called an olfactometer. Those that are able to detect the odour within acceptable concentrations are then certified as panelists. In Ontario, the Ontario Source Testing Code Method 6 mandates the use of a calibrated panelists to evaluate odour samples.

Odour Standards in Ontario

If requested by the MOECC, facilities are required to meet a POI standard of 1 OU/m3.

Under Section 14 of the Environmental Protection Act, companies are prohibited from discharging a contaminant to the natural environment that causes or may cause an adverse impact. Where an adverse impact is defined as:

  • impairment of the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it
  • injury or damage to property or to plant or animal life
  • harm or material discomfort to any person
  • rendering any property or plant or animal life unfit for human use
  • loss of enjoyment of normal use of property
  • Interference with the normal conduct of business.

If an odour from a facility is in excess of 1 OU/m3, then the facility is required to control and abatement the sources of odour at the facility.

Below is a list of common contaminants or industries that the MOECC odour impact assessment to be performed, and are likely to required odour controls:

  • Meat processing/rendering facilities
  • Recycling/Waste Disposal facilities
  • Wastewater Treatment facilities
  • Facilities with significant emissions of:
    • Total reduced sulphur (TRS)
    • Hydrogen sulphide (H2S), and
    • Mercaptans
  1. Reg 419/05 states that odour control standards do not apply to:
  • Agricultural operations covered under the Farming and Food Production Act
  • Alarm systems/warming systems
  • Dimethyl disulphide from regulated pesticides

The MOECC requires that odour impact be modelled at the following locations where human activities regularly occur:

  • Residences
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Retirement homes or long-term care facilities
  • Child care facilities
  • Camp grounds
  • Schools, community centres and day cares
  • Recreational centres and sports facilities
  • Outdoor public recreational areas

Rubidium Environmental takes into account the odour control standards in your region when developing your odour management plan.

Land Use Planning Environmental Impacts

Odour from existing industries can also play a role with proposed land use development. Municipalities often require impact assessments to be performed as part of the environmental study. This typically includes the common nuisance contaminants such as dust, noise, and odour impacts. In order to comply with the planning process, developers are required to demonstrate that no adverse impacts will result from the development. This may include assessing the impact from the existing industry. In situations where it has been demonstrated that there is an odour, or noise impact issue in excess of the MOECC limits, municipalities often make the approval conditional on implementation of appropriate odour control measures.

Odour Complaints

During the summer months there is always a spike in the number of odour complaints received by the MOECC. As more people are spending time outside, there is a greater likelihood that they will be exposed to an odour. Also, during the hot summer days, the higher temperatures may increase the odour being emitted from storage piles. This is especially true in areas around landfills, recycling plants, and wastewater treatment plants.

Material Odour Testing / Product Odour Testing Services

While odour labs, or olfactometers are often used to measure odour from process exhausts, or ambient sources, they can also be used to analyze scents from commercial products. How things smell can be an important part of a product. Certain smells are more pleasant than others, i.e. “new car smell”.

Important attributes of odour are:

  • Intensity – strength of the odour
  • Character or hedonic tone – likelihood to elicit a positive or negative response
  • Duration – how long the odour lasts

Analyzing the characteristics of a smell can be important for consumer products where customer perception is important. There is often a marketing advantage to having the most pleasant smelling product or in some cases the product with the least smell. Products like paints, household cleaners, even food and beverage products commonly get evaluated for their scent. Is there a market advantage to having an odour test done on your product? Where do your products rank in an odour analysis compared with your competitors?

Odour Abatement

Odour generated from an industrial process is generally the easiest type of odour to control. The odour can be tested, odour modelling can be performed, and target values for reduction identified. For fugitive sources like piles, or large open areas that are common at wastewater treatment plants and recycling/waste disposal facilities, the challenge is determining the most effective way to mitigate odour. As odour abatement over large areas is typically cost prohibitive, more attention must be given to the nature of the operations and procedural changes.

The Rubidium Environmental Advantage: Odour Control Experts

In an environmental compliance approval, a facility can look at its emission summary and odour dispersion modelling (ESDM) report, and understand which, if any, contaminants need to be abated. Looking at the contaminant, one can then decide which type of pollution control equipment would work best. With odour, however, it is more challenging. Odour is a combination of chemicals that combine together to produce a particular smell. In terms of odour units, one cannot predict what will happen when you combine two mixtures together. Odour is not an additive or transitive property, thus odour control involves more analysis. More importantly, this is where a solid understanding of the compounds that are contributing to the odour is required. Rubidium Environmental has experience conducting odour analysis across a variety of industries including: automotive, food & beverage, inks & coatings, recycling/waste disposal, and wastewater treatment facilities. We can help you to create a comprehensive odour management plan that is in compliance with Ontario odour control standards.

Contact a Rubidium Environmental Consultant:

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