The wastewater treatment industry is facing ever-increasing challenges. As communities grow, aging infrastructure built on the outskirts of communities has gradually moved within buffer distances designed for odor control. Facing regulations that continue to increase in stringency and communities that continually demand more from industry and regulators, businesses have increased expenditure on control and tracking of odor impacts.
Unfortunately most systems for environmental management focus on the collection, storage and, only sometimes, the display of information. Although useful for reporting on issues that have happened in the past, analysis of data is time consuming and difficult for non-subject matter experts. At the end of a lengthy investigation, results are inconclusive, and the opportunities for operational improvement have passed.
At high-risk sites, traditional ways of managing odor can no longer deliver performance that the community and customers are happy with. New ways of doing business need to be geared towards helping businesses avoid impacts or to improve operations, supported by high-quality analysis that is delivered to the people that need it, when they need it.
Environmental management is often seen as a cost to business, but the costs of the traditional methods for odor management can be much higher.
Our work with sewage treatment plants has found seven areas of costs related to odor issues:
- Unnecessary investment in expensive control technologies.
- Reduction in property values in nearby communities.
- Higher operating costs associated with odor management.
- Undiagnosed process upsets: odor can often be a symptom of a plant performing sub-optimally.
- Management and resolution of complaints.
- Lawsuits from regulators, community groups and developers.
- Regulatory penalties related to odor management.
To avoid these costs businesses need to find new ways to improve odor management performance without increasing ongoing operating costs. Pro-active technologies designed to avoid incidents, improve performance and reduce the number of odor complaints are ideal for delivering the genuine financial benefits that business needs.
The key to delivering this value is technology that moves beyond the storage and display of information to technology that delivers analysis and understanding in real time, so that managers of the business can make the right decisions at the right times to avoid environmental incidents.
Stakeholder engagement is critical. Proactive systems are a new way of doing business and change management needs to be a focus of any implementation. The people that make the day-to-day decisions that affect plant performance are often different to those that make the decision to implement the system in the first place, so consultation and communication is critical. Everyone needs to understand why the change is happening and what the benefits to the business will be. Key questions during early consultation include:
- How are complaints currently managed at a site level? For example, what information is available to analyze complaints, how is it used, what information is reported internally and externally?
- How is monitoring of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) currently used to manage odor?
- What are the limitations of existing methods?
- What frequency of automated reporting would provide optimum response?
- Who should receive risk reports?
- How should monitoring dashboards be displayed and who should have access to them?
- Is there any information, and on what alert levels and format (e.g. SMS, email, what averaging period), that would be useful for the site?
- What modeling is available that could be utilized in a real-time or forecast model for the site?
- What meteorological conditions typically lead to complaints?
- How is performance currently measured at each site and what level of information is desired?
- How could a new system improve the way that odor risk is managed?
- What information is available on monitoring technologies currently in use?
- What are the limitations of currently available technology?
The future of odor management
Odor management is becoming a costly and complex issue. For businesses wanting to avoid significant costs associated with purchasing and operating control systems, proactive systems for odor management can deliver ongoing benefits and lower costs of operation.
This piece is an exerpt from a whitepaper exploring the implementation of proactive odor management, covering everything from configuring the modeling and monitoring systems, to optimizing alerts to risk forecasting.
Download the full whitepaper here or visit envirosuite.com for more information.