Urban Odor Study Report Revisited

Urban Odor Study Report Revisited
Air Quality Division Manager Mike Williams presented an overview of the findings from the year-long Urban Odor Study, conducted by Envirosuite from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, at the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board meeting in August.

For more than a year, The Resident News has been following issues surrounding complaints of “noxious odors” detected primarily in Riverside, Avondale and Murray Hill communities, including the launch and conclusion of the City’s 12-month Urban Odor Study conducted by Envirosuite. In its September issue, The Resident News reported on a presentation made to the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board (JEPB) discussing an overview of the findings in the resulting Urban Odor Study Report. As promised in that September article, and in response to reader requests, The Resident News made further inquiries with the City regarding the Urban Odor Study and its accompanying report.

The Timeline

Jacksonville’s Air Quality Division Manager Mike Williams made the presentation at the August JEPB meeting, which reflected a total of 4,544 odor complaints made between September 2020 and July 2023. According to Part VII of JEPB Rule 1, the Environmental Quality Division (EQD) investigates each odor complaint and verifies “with reasonable certitude” its source. Management must then, in turn, validate each investigation.

Citations are issued after five validated complaints from different households within a 90-day timeframe.

According to the presentation, between September 2020 and July 2023, there were 155 validated complaints for International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF); six for Symrise, Inc.; one for Reichhold, Inc.; two for JEA; and one for Preferred Materials, Inc.

Two citations were issued to IFF in December 2020 and October 2021, respectively. In December 2021, Williams said IFF made changes to its wastewater tank, “involving a temporary pure oxygen diffusion system and partially covering the surface with floating hexagon-shaped pieces.” Odor complaints dropped off shortly thereafter.

“We can’t be sure if that was because of the changes that were made to the wastewater tank or for some other reason,” he said.

IFF installed “full coverage hex pieces, maintaining the temporary pure oxygen system” in January 2022.

The Urban Odor Study began on April 1, 2022, and ended on March 31, 2023.

Symrise received its first citation in spring 2022 and IFF signed a compliance plan in December of that year.

EQD Chief Melissa M. Long said one thing residents can take away from the Urban Odor Study report’s findings is that there were “no unknown sources of odor.”

“The software we used for this study was extremely useful in helping us determine what was going on during off-hours as well as how winds were moving throughout the area when we were receiving complaints,” she said.

The Study and Equipment

Williams explained that Envirosuite made a presentation to the JEPB in February 2021, after which the JEPB “expressed an interest in a funding proposal.” Later that year, in August, the City Council approved a bill appropriating the necessary funding for the study, which cost $125,392.

When asked if other companies were considered to conduct the study and what criteria led to Envirosuite’s selection, Long stated that Envirosuite approached JEPB with its proposal, which the board then approved.

“This was not something the Environmental Quality Division went in search of,” she added. “Therefore, no other companies were approached about this type of study.”

As The Resident News reported previously, Envirosuite installed 11 eNoses throughout the community for the Odor Study. These eNoses came equipped with three sensors to detect ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. During his presentation, Williams noted the VOC sensors “were not very reliable.”

“Really, the VOC data was good at the beginning of the study; about halfway through, it was almost unusable,” he had previously said.

Additionally, Williams noted Envirosuite did not provide or complete the recommended monthly calibrations for the eNoses.

The Resident News inquired whether EQD was concerned that not performing the recommended monthly calibrations would compromise the data collected during the study and if Envirosuite was consulted about the impact skipping those calibrations could have.

In her e-mail, Long responded, “We had a concern about the VOC data once the study got underway and we were observing issues with individual monitors. We discovered that the VOC sensor manufacturer recommended monthly calibration late in the study. Envirosuite was notified any time we noticed issues with the data. They were slow in responding to issues with the sensors, although they did replace some of them.”

A slide included in Williams’ presentation detailing hardware maintenance records reflected the VOC sensor for eNose 2 was replaced in February and again in April 2022.

In March 2022, eNose 6 had its internal and external battery replaced. The slide reflects maintenance for eNose 5 for “reseated NH3 sensor to correct null values” in May 2022.

Four eNoses – eNose 6, 8, 9 and 10 – were all replaced on Nov. 30, 2022.

Long added that there are no plans to request any sort of refund for the sensors, which she said “were not necessarily faulty, they didn’t last as long as anticipated.”

Following Williams’ presentation, a question was asked if Envirosuite provided any explanation regarding the sensor issues.

“They had no explanation,” Williams said.

Long said the City will not be acting on any of the recommendations provided in the Urban Odor Study report, many of which involved additional Envirosuite equipment and software and gathering additional information “such as characterizing emissions and expanding on the pollutant types.”

“EQD will not be moving forward at this time with the purchase of the software platform or equipment, but we may implement other solutions down the road,” she said.

Moving forward, Long explained that the City “will continue to follow the Environmental Protection Board Rule 1 criteria that we have been following for investigation and potential enforcement. We are looking to see if there might be other software programs that we could use.”

Process Improvements Made

At the conclusion of his presentation, Williams noted that “along with our field efforts and this study and the general attention to odors the last couple years,” procedural improvements have been made at several facilities, including IFF, American Cool Air, Symrise and Reichhold.

According to the city officials, no odor citations have been issued since the odor study’s conclusion. IFF’s odor compliance plan with the city “protects them from citation and enforcement for odor violations while in effect, providing time for them to implement the mitigation measures agreed to in the plan.”

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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