How Industry and the Burbs Coexist Without Odor Complaints

August 21, 2023


Industries commonly have odor complaints, especially as suburbs encroach closer to a facility’s property boundary. Even when using scrubbers and other industrial treatment methods to eliminate odors, they can still cause nuisance problems for facilities.

To address this, environmental engineers compile processed meteorological data and odor complaint information to determine the best course of action to mitigate odor issues and create positive relations with the public.

How it Works
A large beef processing facility in Southern California has received increasing odor complaints from the public over the last five years. Enough that the courts ordered the facility to take action above and beyond what it was already providing. The engineers started by tabulating the complaints, including time, date, and supplemental information such as location, any noted comments, and findings from the regulator upon their inspection. In addition, they compiled all maintenance records from the facility and meteorological data from the adjacent airport to perform a detailed analysis of the odor problem.

By assigning each complaint with its wind speed and direction based on the logged complaint time, the engineers create a map and see that most complaints originated south of the facility when the wind blew from the north, indicating a high probability that this facility was indeed the culprit despite controls in place. Additional revelations included:

• Complaints are most common in the morning.
• All complaints are within the colder months.
• Higher wind speed mitigates odor complaints.
• Processing more cattle does not lead to more complaints, but longer processing hours may correlate.
• Scrubber maintenance reduces complaints.

Resulting Factors
Many factors contribute to odor complaints, but this assessment showed the strongest correlation when the facility performed scrubber maintenance. The scrubbers are control devices on the exit vents of the building that controls pollutants and odors leaving the facility.

Using the study results, the engineers can pinpoint recommendations to control odors. Out of all the recommendations, the simplest and most cost-effective recommendation is Option 1, to increase scrubber maintenance. Employ Option 2 if production is increasing. Options 3 through 5 are less desirable since they are more expensive or could hinder production schedules. Nonetheless, we list them so you have all of your options, as follows:

1. Perform more regular maintenance on the scrubbers, especially during the winter months.
2. Even though the system currently seems to be sized appropriately, get the scrubber manufacturer to upgrade the system if the facility increases production.
3. Install a meteorological tower on site and reduce or halt operations when the winds are slow, from the north, and in the colder months.
4. Add a deodorizing system south of the plant to inject an odor neutralizer in the air into the odor plume.
5. Construct a wind barrier or heavy-duty fans south of the plant to intersect and force more dispersion of the odorous plume.

Sustainable and Proactive Approach
The beef processing facility study determined quarterly maintenance should significantly reduce odors. Moving forward, the facility can refer to its SCS study if experiencing conditions that could increase the possibility of odors and, importantly, show regulators the facility takes a proactive approach to community concerns.


Jeffrey LeadfordMeet the Author: Jeffrey Leadford has 10 years of experience in the air quality field. His specialties include air dispersion modeling, emission inventory production, GIS mapping, and air monitoring. At SCS he creates emission inventories, reports, and runs air dispersion modeling on industrial sites in the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Leadford is a Professional Engineer licensed in Oregon, and received his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado. He is also a licensed FAA Remote Pilot. Contact Jeffrey or your local resource at .


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Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am