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Odour: It all make scents now


Is the standard approach to odour assessment the best we can do? A recent case study may suggest not...  

Unpleasant odours have plagued residents of a Christchurch suburb for over a decade. Despite hundreds of complaints and ECan officer responses, the scale, nature and impacts of the potentially chronic odour issue were not thoroughly understood. Multiple factors made substantiating and isolating individual odour sources difficult, including the expanse of industrial development in Bromley and the effect of environmental variables on odour behavior. Standard odour assessment methods did not account for the complexity, and non-static nature of odour contaminants discharged to air.  

ECan developed a novel odour-pilot-partnership with a suspected odour-emitting facility, where data was collected via an ECan-built crowd-sourcing app, an independent odour assessor and officers assigned to observe odours within and beyond the facility's boundaries. 

This data was triangulated and analysed, and two facilities were identified as the primary points of discharge of acute unpleasant odours at chronic frequencies in the community. The effects of these odours on the community were not measured by the standards of environmental triage, but through addressing how odour was impacting amenity values.  

This pilot taught us that immediate response may be fundamental for odour substantiation due to the dynamic nature of odour contaminants. This may mean that a greater suite of methods is required to effectively assess chronic odour issues than what are currently employed through standard procedures. Additionally, we learned that community members can accurately identify odour characters and even a few vocal residents may be indicative of a wider issue


Thursday 8th December, 11:30am


Kimberley Kovacs-Wilks
Resource management officer, Environment Canterbury


We are graduates from the University of Canterbury pursuing careers in Environmental Science. Our current roles at ECan has have us focused on a decade long odour issue in the Canterbury district of Bromley where we were part of a novel pilot to substantiate a chronic odour issue. Our roles are now focused on assessing odour issues using similar effective methods form the pilot including a proprietary crowd-sourced app, team data collection and team data analysis.

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