Odors And Odor Control

Odor control has become a major concern in the successful operation of any composting facility. Indeed, some operating facilities have been closed due to odor problems (Libby 1991). Numerous papers have been published identifying the causes of odors and management strategies to control odors (Hentz et al. 1992; Miller 1993; Goldstein 1993; Van Durme, McNamara, and McGinley 1992).

Many potential sources of odors exist at composting facilities. While the process air coming off a compost pile is most odorous, environmental engineers must evaluate all potential sources of odors. Therefore, a proper inventory of the potential sources of odors is necessary including liquid sludge and dewatered sludge facilities.

Haug (1990) states that odors are part of the composting process and cannot be eliminated, but they can be managed. Finstein et al. (1986; 1993) point out that controlling the composting process is crucial in minimizing odor production. This process control includes good aeration and maintaining the proper temperature, moisture, and structure of the piles.

A variety of compounds cause odors including fatty acids, amines, aromatics, inorganic and organic sulfur compounds, and terpenes (Miller 1993). They vary in their chemical properties. Some are acidic; some are basic. Some can be oxidized; others cannot. Differences exist in their solubility and adsorbability. Also, the compounds change over the course of time of operation. Therefore, any treatment system must have a broad spectrum of removal mechanisms.

Typical odor management (in addition to good process operation) involves containment of process gases, collection of gases, gas treatment, and proper dispersion. Other management possibilities include the dilution of odors with large volumes of air and the use of masking agents. Gas treatment options include oxidation processes, chemical scrubbers, and biofilters.

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