The True Costs of Insufficient Industrial Odor Control

by Byers Scientific | June 24, 2021 | Blog | Odor

It is a given that industrial-scale waste processing facilities such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and commercial composting facilities emit odors. What’s less clear, primarily due to the subjective nature of smell, is the impact of those odors on the facility, neighboring communities, and the operator’s bottom line. And while comprehensive odor control systems might seem like a significant investment compared to a “band-aid” approach, the cost of insufficient industrial odor control makes this investment well worth the cost. 

So, what are the actual costs of inadequate industrial odor control? 

Understanding the scope of industrial odor complaints

First, it’s essential to understand the nature of industrial odor complaints. Because industrial odor complaints are typically received at the local level, it is not easy to quantify precisely how many occur across industries nationwide. However, recent odor complaints in South Carolina’s York and Lancaster counties can help illuminate the massive scope of the issue. 

According to recent reporting by WBTV, between March 12 and April 20, 2021, more than 5,000 odor complaints were reported regarding a smell described as “rotten eggs, nail polish, sewage, and more.” Complainants said this smell was causing nausea, headaches, and burning in their eyes, throat, and lungs. This wave of residential reports across those counties prompted the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate several facilities across the area. These investigations led to operational delays, lost profits, and costly facility upgrades. 

If insufficient industrial odor control measures can lead to 5,000 complaints in one region in just one month, you can imagine this issue’s annual and nationwide scope. This situation, and countless others like it across the country, serve as an example of just how crucial industrial odor control truly is. 

Consider the case in New Jersey. In 2020, the governor signed landmark environmental justice legislation into law. The law (S232), imposes new requirements for industrial facilities—including landfills, sewage treatment plants, recycling facilities, and resource recovery facilities—to obtain permits. While the law’s coverage and requirements are the most far-reaching environmental justice legislation in the country, it could be a sign of what’s to come. Now is the time to take a proactive approach to mitigate industrial odors and emissions.

Insufficient industrial odor control can: 

Disrupt daily operations 

Though many residents of encroaching city developments are quick to blame the nearby landfill, composting facility, or other industrial complex as the source of offensive odors, commonly, these sites do not end up being the source. Unfortunately, complaint investigations take precedence over daily operations, whether they are warranted or not. 

In these situations, real-time reporting can be instrumental in shortening investigations and getting back to daily processes promptly. Robust operational data reports help facility operators show real-time data corresponding with odor complaints and prove their adherence to odor control requirements. 

Most traditional odor control setups cannot offer minute-by-minute reporting. However, each state-of-the-art Byers system comes fully equipped with a dedicated Cloud-based website. This allows facility managers to remotely and continuously monitor their on-site equipment and systems. 

Damage community relationships 

Industrial waste processing facilities and other facilities that process organic materials are often in an uneasy stand-off with their neighboring communities. According to Waste360, nuisance lawsuits, mainly around odor, are rising as disposal sites grow and housing developments continue to pop up close to them. And once initial odor complaints have been lodged, it can be challenging to clear the air. 

As Waste Advantage Magazine notes, “[I]n today’s world, negative information about odor flare-ups spreads quickly thanks to social media and the 24-hour news cycle… Today, if a waste handling facility is affecting neighbors, the negative response is likely to be rapid and, in some cases, severe.”

While it may be unrealistic for your facility’s residential neighbors to expect no odor emission, facility operators must implement solutions that help reduce odors and thereby reduce the risk of adverse reactions from neighbors.

Lead to municipal backlash and fines

Once civilian odor complaints are received, oversight committees dispatch agents to conduct an investigation. It is critical for facilities to have a positive working relationship with their regulatory agencies, especially with odor, because odor enforcement is generally at the agency’s discretion.

Often, the agency will use “nuisance” guidelines to determine whether or not your facility is adhering to regulatory requirements. As Waste Today Magazine observes, “These requirements generally are non-numeric and subjective and tend to be driven by odor complaints by citizens and/or agency inspections.” For example, in California: 

“Nuisance” includes “anything which is injurious to human health or is indecent or offensive to the senses, interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property and affects at the same time an entire community, neighborhood, household or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of annoyance or damage inflicted upon an individual may be unequal, and which occurs as a result of the storage, removal, transport, processing or disposal of solid waste.” — California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 27, Section 20760

Most facility managers have undoubtedly heard the cautionary tales and reports. Ongoing odor issues can lead to lawsuits, regulatory actions, permitting difficulties, and early facility closures, among others. This makes proper management of odor a critical point for waste treatment and processing facilities. 

Prevention remains the best strategy for industrial odor control 

Once odor complaints have started rolling in, your facility faces an uphill battle. Negative public perception, fueled by viral social movements and news cycles, can have a lasting impact on your facility’s operations. That’s why, at Byers Scientific, we believe prevention is the best way to mitigate industrial odors and head-off complaints.

When you partner with the team at Byers Scientific, we will work with you to achieve a comprehensive understanding of your facility and odor control needs. Together, we will identify and implement the odor mitigation solutions and equipment to help you effectively achieve industrial compliance. By neutralizing odors before they become a problem—and having the data to prove it—our odor mitigation technology helps keep your facility operating smoothly. 

For more information, visit our resource center or contact us for a custom assessment and quote.