Noses Hard at Work

by Dindo Carrillo, Orange County Sanitation District
From SCAP February Newsletter

Once a week Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) convenes an odor panel to smell odor samples collected from OCSD’s facilities and collection systems. The panelists consist of men and women, age 18 years or older, able to commit for 6 months, and not currently an OCSD employee. Before they are selected, their noses will first have to be screened for “scentability”. The “scentability” tests consists of a series of ten tests to evaluate their sense of smell to make sure it is not too sensitive, not sensitive enough, but just right – meaning they have a typical sense of smell. Once selected, applicants will join an eight member odor panel. The panel receives training from OCSD using the ASTM guidelines, “Guidelines for Selection and Training of Sensory Panel Members.” The training consists of olfactory awareness, sniffing techniques, and the use of the olfactometer device.

Panelists are tasked to complete up to four tests per session. Using the olfactometer device, each panelist will sniff a series of three odorous samples and identify the one that is “different” from the other two, which are “blanks.” The samples are dispensed in quick spurts through a comfortable nose piece. Short breaks are provided between each test series. The smells that panelists are testing are odor samples collected from OCSD’s facilities and collections systems. They are dispensed in very low dilutions and are non-toxic. The results of the test will be used to quantify environmental odors and help determine the impact of odors on the surrounding community. Using this data OCSD has been able to use its resources more effectively. OCSD has been successful in reducing its odor complaints, thereby continuing to improve the relationship with its neighbors.

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