City wants to test super sniffer to reduce stench from compost facilities, landfill

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A super-sonic sense of smell isn’t usually an enviable superpower.

But when it comes to sniffing out nasty odours, London is testing a tool that would hang with the best of the superheroes.

Code name: Nasal Ranger.

In scientific circles, it’s an olfactometer, or an “odour detection device.”

Essentially, a super sniffer that costs about $2,600.

The city plans to test the equipment — rather like an electronic snout — next summer in London’s south end, where garbage, compost and biogas facilities converge.

Not surprisingly, residents say the facilities produce a stink that just won’t quit.

“Our plan is to test this product out in the field, over months where people have their windows open,” Orest Katolyk, the city’s bylaw boss, said. “It’s a way of portably detecting odour in and around our facilities.”

The Nasal Ranger takes in air and sends it through carbon filters that weed out odour particles. The device measures clean air against the stinky stuff.

It’s used all across North America, Katolyk said, including spots such as Denver where legalized marijuana left some concerned about the smell.

Orest Katolyk, head of bylaw enforcement for the City of London, demonstrates an odour detection device called the Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer which his department is testing. Photo taken on Friday August 25, 2017. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)

Right now, Londoners must report their odour complaints to the province. But if the super sniffer works well, the city could look at enforcing an odour bylaw. Council’s planning and environment committee will debate that, and a whole host of other recommendations to deal with nasty smells, at a meeting Monday.

Staff also suggest the city boost the provincial odour-monitoring system that’s already in place with a two-year injection of cash, a maximum of $90,000 per year, from a landfill reserve fund.

Allan Tipping, who’s long argued the bad-smelling air in his neighbourhood is negatively affecting residents’ quality of life, said he’s none too excited about the new tool. But he is eager for the city to develop a nuisance bylaw that would cover odours.

“I just called in a complaint today,” he said on Friday. “I haven’t even swam in my pool once this year. I haven’t had a barbecue with friends or anything because the smell always appears.”

A bylaw would give the city the ability to ticket or charge facilities that don’t comply with odour restrictions. But Tipping said he’d rather see a sniff test by a human nose.

The city’s goal is to use all the methods it can to deal with odours, said Jay Stanford, the city’s director of environmental programs and solid waste.

“(We want) to see if a city bylaw can actually help in this whole overall situation,” he said. “We have a large landfill site down there that has odours from time to time. Could this also be a tool to help us understand and reduce odours as well?”

A bylaw would give the city’s newest tool a real workout.

“It’s more of a scientific tool than simply going out there and going ‘This (smell) is bad,’” Katolyk said.

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