Although solid waste management is an essential service to the community, sometimes it produces an unpleasant side effect – smelly odors. Our transfer stations are cleared of waste every day, so odor complaints for those facilities are uncommon.
When our landfill in Melissa opened in 2004, there were very few residents near it. Now, as communities in the region are growing and expanding, housing developments have been built as close as one mile away. Our landfill is unique in that there is a composting facility onsite and a feedlot nearby, both of which produce odors similar to the landfill.
We have 216 collection wells to capture landfill gas before it leaves the landfill which helps to minimize odor. Another 25 wells will be installed by the end of February 2020.
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions about landfill odors
What's That Smell?
Landfill gas is formed when buried solid waste decomposes. This process creates gases, the most common of which are methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), which typically combine to make up more than 95% of the landfill gas. While these two gases are odorless, the unpleasant aromas are caused by the small percentage of other gases. The most common odors from the landfill are caused by hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Hydrogen sulfide is most commonly recognized as a strong “rotten egg” smell. The smell of volatile organics can vary, but typically have a somewhat sweetly pungent smell.
What Does the Landfill do to Help Control Odor?
We operate 216 collection wells (another 25 will be installed by the end of February 2020) to capture landfill gas before it leaves the landfill, and have two mobile odor management systems located in the vicinity of the active disposal area. This is significantly above and beyond standard industry best management practices. Collected gas is routed to an on-site facility that cleans it to pipeline quality natural gas where it is sold as renewable energy.
Every day, employees spread and compact the solid waste in the active area of the landfill as it arrives. At the end of each day, it is then covered with a minimum 6-inch thick layer of clean soil. This cover helps to control the odor, prevent blowing litter around, prevent fires, and ward off scavenging animals.
An odor patrol assesses the presence of odors from 12 different locations in Melissa each day the landfill operates. Monthly, the landfill surface is walked and inspected for excessive release of landfill gas.
Why Does the Strength of the Odor Vary So Much from Day to Day?
The migration of landfill gas depends on a variety of atmospheric conditions:
On days when the barometric pressure is low or dropping, the gas pressure inside the landfill will be higher than the atmosphere. This causes the landfill gas to shift from the landfill to balance with the atmosphere. Barometric pressure drops are often associated with rainfall which is why odors may be noticeable before and after rainfall events.
During colder months, temperature inversions may occur where warm air is trapped above cold air closer to the ground. This slows the normal rise of gas causing concentrations closer to the ground thereby creating a stronger smell.
Wind helps spread any escaped gas and lessen their concentration, but days with little wind mean that odors may be more noticeable.
Certain moon phases also contribute to gas migration, similar to the influence the lunar pull has on tides. The pull of a New Moon or Full Moon can make it easier for landfill gas to migrate from the landfill. On a cold, damp, cloudy, windless day with low barometric pressure, the landfill gas and their associated odors will be hardest to control.
Does the Smell Pose Any Health Risks?
Even when odors are strongest, the air’s circulation significantly reduces the concentration of the gas to levels far below any that could be harmful by the time the smell is noticeable. See additional information provided in the links below.
How Do I Report Landfill Odors?
Contact Gary Higgs, NTMWD Landfill Manager at (972) 442-5405 or firstname.lastname@example.org for odor complaints so they may be investigated. This phone number is always staffed.