Mysterious pong remains elusive

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 14:16 15/01/2013

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Special computer software designed to track down the mysterious odour that previously plagued Timaru has not been needed yet.

In the previous three summers, both the Herald and Environment Canterbury received dozens of calls about a pungent odour, described as anything from "fishy" to "like a dead seal", wafting through town as the weather changed.

ECan purchased a trial software programme to try to locate it, but compliance monitoring leader Jason Evered said its pollution hotline had received zero complaints about the unpleasant odour since the software went "live" in December.

"I'm at a loss as to why that is. I don't think the lack of complaints means the smell has gone away, as such. Perhaps we haven't had the same weather patterns as the last two summers," he said.

Mr Evered said ECan purchased the trial software from Australian firm Pacific Environment for about $9000.

"It was always going to be a pretty open-ended trial, we had to do something," he said.

"Summer's not over yet, it could well be that the wind changes and the odour becomes prominent again."

The software, called EnviroSuite Odour Tracking System, 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.

"If people do notice the unpleasant odour, please be very specific about the time, location and nature of the complaint," Mr Evered said.

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

While Timaru's odour issues appear to be dormant at the moment, Whanganui's recent problems have led it to being dubbed "Ponganui".

The smell has led to countless complaints from locals, and was believed to have been caused by recent dumps of trade waste.

Horizons Regional Council has ordered Wanganui District Council to stop emitting objectionable odour beyond the boundary of its wastewater treatment plant by February 9, or face penalties ranging from fines to the shutting down of the plant.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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