News Feature | July 2, 2019

Vanilla Deployed To Combat Wastewater Treatment Plant Odors

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


Among the contaminant removal and regulatory concerns they deal with, wastewater treatment plants also have to wrangle an unavoidable feature that comes with the territory. Wastewater stinks.

Foul-smelling odors are a natural constituent of influent and a byproduct of the microorganisms that break down biodegradable material on its way to becoming treated effluent. But they also present a unique challenge for treatment operations, as the stench can be overwhelming for staff as well as the surrounding community.

There are several ways that wastewater treatment operations can tackle odor control, including the use of covering tanks, basins, and lagoons. But one plant in Mississippi has turned the negative into a positive, masking foul wastewater odors with a more pleasant aroma.

“The air is a little sweeter now that a Mississippi community is spraying vanilla scent to mask the odor of its wastewater treatment plant,” CBS 42 reported. “More than two dozen machines recently started blowing scented mist into the air 19 hours a day at the Pascagoula-Moss Point wastewater treatment.”

The misters are active from 5 a.m. to midnight every day and the specific scent was reportedly chosen by a “smell team” with community input. The scent is stored in a barrel and the mist is fed to the front of the building through hoses, which may soon be replaced by longer-lasting pipes.

Representatives from the local Jackson County Utility Authority (JCUA) visited a nearby Alabama town to study a similar system that it had in place before implementing their own. It was all an effort to address some grievances the utility was dealing with.

“We received some complaints,” JCUA’s executive director, Tommy Fairfield Jr., told WLOX. “Currently the vision has a more community feel. You have parks, you’re trying to reach out to some housing, shopping. So the facility needs to evolve the best it can.”

The new odor control measures were part of a larger, four-year updating effort at the plant. Modernization work also included the addition of new aeration equipment, which helped reduce odor emissions even further. So far, local residents have praised the change.

“The owner of a wig and jewelry boutique near the plant, Gerrie Hicks, tells news outlets that she previously noticed a ‘foul odor’ lingering in the air,” per CBS 42. “She says now it’s possible to sit outside or walk around downtown Pascagoula ‘and you just have a better smell.’”

To read more about how wastewater operations control smells, visit Water Online’s Odor Control Solutions Center.