Software to help track mystery Timaru stink

Special computer software could soon track down the source of Timaru's mystery odour.

During the past three summers, Environment Canterbury (ECan) and The Timaru Herald have received dozens of calls about a pungent odour in the town as the weather changes. The odour has been described as anything from "fishy" to "smelling of rotting vegetation" and "like a dead seal", but so far, efforts to track down the source have been unsuccessful.

However, ECan's compliance monitoring leader, Jason Evered, said the regional council had bought a trial software programme from Australian firm Pacific Environment.

"It's called an EnviroSuite Odour Tracking System. It tracks the possible direction of the smell by mapping it to the weather patterns, the location of the complaint, and the description of the smell," Mr Evered said.

The trial would take place during the next six months, and would cost about $9000.

"We're confident this will help us track down the source of Timaru's mystery odour. The software has been used successfully in Australia and Spain; it can handle and sort a large number of complaints."

Should the software pinpoint a likely source, ECan would work with the culprit to identify the cause, Mr Evered said. "We won't be going down the route of immediate prosecution. We want people to improve their practices.

"But the software will only be as good as the data. When you call the pollution hotline, you will need to be as descriptive as possible about the time, location and nature of the smell."

Residents can phone ECan's pollution hotline with complaints about unpleasant odours on 0800 76 55 88.

The Timaru Herald