Although too young to remember John Major’s premiership, Rebecca Munson, UK sales manager at Air Spectrum Environmental, believes clients in the odour control and dust suppression sectors need to go ‘back to basics’. Geraldine Faulkner finds out why.
RATHER THAN wait until an odour becomes a problem, Rebecca Munson, UK sales manager at Air Spectrum Environmental says businesses such as material recycling facilities and anaerobic digestion sites need to incorporate odour control and dust suppression measures in the planning and initial construction stages of their sites rather than leave them until a problem arises; and local residents have rung up to complain about a ‘nasty niff’.
This approach, she says, coupled with a consistent approach from regulators and authorities helps to manage the potential for nuisance.
“Nine times out of 10 we are called to the rescue once a problem has arisen. What we are trying to do is work with our customers and ensure they are approaching the odour control and dust suppression as early as possible, because once you have created a nuisance and residents complain it’s a case of being reactive rather than proactive. It’s in the planning stages when we should be called in, to assess the situation and plan a robust odour management scheme. This is the approach we prefer to go down,” explains Munson.
So who is Air Spectrum Environmental? Based in Worcester and with 20 years’ experience in the odour control industry under their belt, the Air Spectrum team provide expert support and assessment of odour, together with the supply of odour control equipment and its design. They manufacture and install bespoke odour control systems for a range of businesses across the UK including materials recycling facilities, composting, remediation, landfill sites, anaerobic digestion facilities and petrochemical industries.
The company offers a range of industrial and commercial odour control systems including rotary atomisers, compressed air nozzle systems and high pressure nozzle systems as well as their own range of liquid neutralisers which are said to be suitable for use in most nozzle line systems. In terms of products that can only be obtained through Air Spectrum, ‘Odr’ is the odour control specialist’s range of organic, non-toxic, food-grade odour neutralisers that it says uses biodegradable essential oils collected from sustainable resources.
“Odr neutralises malodour by removing it from the air not just masking it,” explains Munson before adding: “Odr Enhanced is a new bespoke neutraliser, available in cotton fresh fragrance, that is specially designed and chemically developed to produce positive results from problematic sites, such as landfill, composting sites, effluent treatment and food processing, where the odour is more complicated and elevated. Odr enhanced is an organic, nontoxic food-grade only neutraliser that uses essential oils from sustainable resources.” And it seems business is doing well. “We finished our financial year in August and it has been an exceptionally good year for us,” says the UK sales manager with understandable satisfaction. “This has prompted us to move into new areas of the business which is very exciting and is taking us into different directions.”
Odour threshold analysis – Odour Lab and the NPARU
Working in partnership with Worcester University’s National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit (NPARU), 2014 saw the introduction of a new service from Air Spectrum with the launch of Odour Lab; their high technology odour threshold testing facility.
The university acts as host to this specialist odour threshold testing facility that is said to offer a fast, accurate and efficient odour testing service to businesses across the UK. According to Air Spectrum, the olfactometer installed at the university is the very latest Scentroid SS600 capable of one of the fastest analysis times on the market, enabling Odour Lab to offer large numbers of tests per day.
Why odour threshold testing?
Pete Badham, senior assessor for Air Spectrum, says: “In all industrial processes, exact odour concentration determination provides valuable process management indicators. For example, in the wastewater industry a noticeable increase in odour yield may indicate a biological process becoming inefficient. Similarly, in the composting of organic materials, an increase in the strength of odour may indicate inefficient ventilation of the material.”
Olfactometry, namely the sensory testing and measurement of odour using human panelists, is said to be especially valuable as a means of quantifying and characterising a source of odour to support or dismiss odour nuisance complaints. “If a genuine odour problem is authenticated by olfactometry, an appropriate abatement
process can be selected to resolve the problem,” states Badham. By assessing the emission on a ‘before’ and ‘after’ treatment basis, the percentage reduction in odour can, on the whole, be reliably calculated to confirm the success of the abatement measure. “Olfactometric analysis and odour threshold determination provides a reliable measurement of odour emissions concentration, providing valuable data from which to make reasoned odour management decision,” explains Badham before adding the odour threshold testing conducted by Odour Lab is a scientific means to determine the levels of odour in European Odour Units (OUE) present in a given sample.
Mind you, while Odour Lab harnesses technology, it still requires a panel of ‘calibrated’ human noses to test samples for odour threshold detection: the minimum concentration at which an odour can be detected without any requirement to identify or recognise the smell.
The analysis process
A sampled bag of air is connected to the olfactometer where the sample is presented to each of six panellist stations of the olfactometer. Trained panellists with known acuity levels sniff each sample and digitally record their findings. The output report is confidential and returned to the customer giving the odour level for each sample tested.
Munson adds she has had her nose tested and she falls into the category of a trained panellist.
The data from the Odour Lab report can then be used to model odour patterns, decide if intervention or abatement is required or if the test meets the criteria for an operating permit issued by the Environmental Agency. Munson gives an example of the services Air Spectrum gives its clients.
“Where we have customers with odorous processes located in sensitive areas, we not only supply them with equipment and a site assessment; we also look at the processes and examine the impact for the local amenity.
“This approach really helps them to gauge the situation. If the process changes ever so slightly: the implications can be massive. For instance, if a door is left open that will create a leakage problem creating additional fugitive odours. We find that where we have an operation and the housekeeping is good and they understand how to manage their odour releases, there is normally no problem.
“Educating people from management all the way to the operatives is also a philosophy of ours,” explains the sales manager.
Munson pauses before adding: “Our approach to clients is to build on relationships. We are in it for the long haul, whether it’s in an advisory or consultancy capacity.
She stresses: “We’re not here to just sell the equipment and the chemicals; although they help mitigate problems – our intention is to work in partnership with clients.”
When asked what is Air Spectrum’s USP, the sales manager says unhesitatingly: “It is our holistic approach. We are able to offer help with management plans, to carry out assessments and give a full in-depth report and an idea of the impact they have on the surrounding area.
“That is crucial, as knowledge is power and enables people to make an informed decision whether they decide to choose us or another type of technology.”
In short, it is back to basics.