Software enables ECan to track those bad smells

02:35, Feb 18 2013
smell map
SMELL SOFTWARE: An example of a tracked odour complaint in Timaru using ECan's recently purchased software. The yellow line is a predictive path of an odour. The blue dots are measurements of two minute intervals where the odour would have been (these dots are not actual complaints). The green dots plot the possible variances to the predictive path.

New software purchased to track unpleasant odours in Timaru has been put to good use - despite few indications that the "big stink" of previous summers has returned.

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.

Late last year, Environment Canterbury purchased a six-month software trial from Australian firm Pacific Environment for about $9000 in order to track down the smell.

ECan's compliance monitoring team leader Jason Evered said since the start of this year, about 30 separate complaints about unpleasant odours had been logged in the system. However, there did not appear to be any pattern to them.

"The range of the complaints is so varied that there doesn't appear to be any one standout." Mr Evered said. "It means we haven't been able to pinpoint any one particular odour that has been of concern. In the previous summers, we would receive dozens of calls a week, and many of the complaints had been similar in nature."

The software tracks the odour according to weather patterns, the caller's location and nature of the complaint. Mr Evered said ECan have followed up the complaints, but no enforcement action had been required.

"Generally, our first approach with any issue is to always try to find a solution before we go down the route of enforcement," he said.

Timaru is not the only town which has suffered problems with unpleasant odours. Last month, Horizons Regional Council issued the Wanganui District Council an abatement notice, and warned it could face Environment Court action because of the district council's inability to address odour problems at its sewage plant.


The Timaru Herald