How to keep your site smelling sweet

Councils now have a detailed guide they can refer to on how to manage odours from waste sites. One of the authors, Rob Lockwood, outlines the main points

A guide on odour control has been published by Defra, aimed at local authority environmental health practitioners (EHPs) to support their role in the prevention, regulation and control of odours. It is also expected to support other local authority professionals, regulators and industry professionals who are engaged in the prevention, investigation and management of odours.

The guide entitled Odour guidance for local authorities provides helpful guidance on the assessment and control of odours from sites regulated by local authorities under the statutory nuisance regime of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 and compliments other guidance published under the Environmental Permitting (EP) regime.

Through a number of engagement workshops, a range of stakeholders including local authorities were involved in the drafting of the guide. This resulted in an ongoing review process and enabled local authorities – whom were actively engaged in odour cases – to provide their input.

Aspects to take note of

The guide addresses the following aspects:

  • the basic properties of odour

    the regulatory framework for preventing and controlling odours

    the most common sources of odour and the methods that can be used to investigate and assess them

    the administrative and practical control measures available to local authorities and guidance on how best to implement the service.
  • The document provides advice on what constitutes good practice for local authorities in fulfilling their statutory duties, presenting some example case studies. This is of particular use to councils who are encouraged to develop their own policies and service performance standards and to review their services in order to identify any areas where under-performance may be of concern and improvements possible.

    The guide does not seek to be prescriptive, but instead provides practical guidance on the prevention and management of odour source problems as a means to reduce the incidence of public complaint and provide effective management and mitigation techniques, should odours arise. It will also help local planning authorities or other key decision-makers by providing guidance on odour issues they can refer to when determining planning applications for new developments.

    Structured as a reference document, the guide allows practitioners to grasp information quickly, thus avoiding the need to read the guide in its entirety. Working to this approach, each section contains a brief introductory paragraph and conclusion, summarising the key issues. The guide starts by focusing on the most commonly encountered sources of odour and presents an overview of how odour is perceived. This includes how people sense the presence of odours and how they may respond in terms of their emotions, sensitivity and tolerance. The main attributes of an odour – intensity, quality/character and hedonic tone – are explained, as well as introducing the concepts of odour thresholds and odour concentration units.

    The legal context

    The legal and regulatory section addresses the legal context of odours and the basis for preventing and regulating odours. The guide also refers to Defra’s statutory nuisance environmental permitting guidance on the relationship between the environmental permitting and the statutory nuisance regimes. This is relevant to the control of odours from regulated facilities and registered waste-exempt operations.

    The guide outlines the assessment techniques that can be used to anticipate potential problems as well as investigative methods for controlling existing problems from operations. This includes odour assessment tools to address issues from the planning, permitting and statutory nuisance perspectives.

    Odour control measures are explored, as well as possible mitigation measures employed to control odours, based upon current best practice. The benefits of good communication with the public are also outlined, together with the methods that can be employed by local authorities. It also emphasises the need for close working relationships with regulatory bodies such as the Environment Agency, particularly in relation to regulated sites.

    Proactive intervention strategies are described, in addition to the use of available local authority planning policy, aimed to prevent odour problems arising. Reactive intervention strategies are also described aimed at controlling and abating odour problems when they do arise.

    The guide finishes with supporting information including practical templates and sources of further reading. In summary, this guide provides an essential toolkit for local authorities enabling a consistent, effective and fair approach to their odour regulatory duties.

    Rob Lockwood is a consultant in odour assessment and control at Temple Group

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