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  1. #66

    Default Re: Odor only noticeable when doors opened

    Good morning, Gents!

    Don’s comments are well noted and I’d like to add that we have corrected several residential and industrial sewer odor issues with the simple application of Studor Caps. They are quick, cheap and very effective.

    Jerry - would Studor Caps be a violation of code in your jurisdiction?

    Steve: I had missed your earlier question:


    If you were given the task of identifying this anomaly, how would you go about it?

    Or is it simply sniff, look, think, sniff, open something, think, look, open something, sniff, sniff, sniff?

    Is there a reasonable way to scientifically identify the odor, or track it to its source?
    If I understand the question correctly, there are ways to track these things down. More typical, however, is to look at what I call “the odor triangle:” There is a source, there is a recipient, and there is a pathway from the source to the recipient. By removing one of those elements, one removes the problem. Obviously removal of the recipient (the individual who perceives the odor) is the least favorable solution, but in some cases, it is the only solution (In one of my legal cases, it became favorable to completely relocate the entire staff from a building and replace them with a group that did not have knowledge of the complaints associated with the structure. The second group, lacking the history associated with the structure did not perceive the air to be a problem).

    Since odors migrate from the source to the recipient exclusively along lines of pressure differentials, by identifying either the source or the pathway, and addressing either, one can correct the problem without ever having to identify the actual constituents of the offending material.

    For almost all odor related issues, “air sampling” provides no great benefit, and seldom provides any information the is useful in resolving the problem. I currently have three pending “odor-related” projects – here’s a description of two:

    Case 1, Private Residence:
    The homeowner hired a “certified indoor air quality” specialist (whatever THAT is supposed to mean). The consultant “helped” the homeowner by performing very expensive air sampling and testing, and, as is usual with these guys, never had a sampling plan, never established an hypothesis and never had any data quality objectives. As a result, he spent a LOT of her money to produce perfectly valid laboratory reports – reports however that were completely useless and for which he lacked the competency to interpret. The homeowner contacted us, and asked us to interpret the reports – We had to tell the homeowner she was the victim of a charlatan, and since the samples had never been collected with an end in mind and no DQOs, the reports thus produced were entirely meaningless to anyone except the person who deemed them to be collected. Since the “certified air quality specialist” had no actual knowledge of indoor air quality issues (and had only been trained on how to collect a bunch of (meaningless) samples), the financial resources were simply wasted. Since no DQOs had been established, and there was no apparent reason for performing the sampling, there was no “data,” per se only laboratory reports. The homeowner now has no money left to hire a legitimate consultant to help her with her problem.

    Case 2: University Building
    A dormitory building constructed on a university campus was renovated and converted into office space. Since the renovation, occupants of an isolated area of offices have complained about a foul odor. Maintenance crews scoured the HVAC system, cleaned carpets, changed filters and did everything they could to try to fix the problem.

    I was asked to investigation. Looking exclusively at pressure differentials in the structure, I mapped out the air pathways in the office. Based on this information, I concluded that the pathway exclusively spoke to the only possible location of a source. I identified the most probable location within a wall cavity.

    The maintenance crew opened the wall, and discovered that the during the renovation, a sewer relief stack had been accidentally left open, and terminated in the wall cavity. The location of the open stack was 16 inches from where I estimated the source to be.

    In some cases, sampling can be used to associate two remote areas or identify a source. Where this is performed, the process begins with establishing DQOs and collecting those samples exclusively to meet those DQOs.

    The pressure mapping indicated that the source was a small business using organic compounds. We determined the route from the source to the recipient (a small mortgage office in the same structure.) The business of the suspected source denied responsibility and pointed out that the recipients were separated from them by many businesses in between and none of the occupants of those businesses had noted any odors – how, they argued, could they be the source, if even the closest businesses to them didn’t smell anything?

    To objectively confirm the source we characterized the ambient air in the source, and in the recipient office –To do that, we simultaneously collected two samples one from each business (suspected source and recipient office) submitted the samples for GCMS - not because we wanted to know what the odors consisted of, but rather because we wanted to identify the profile of the odor. I have a photograph to two side-by-side chormatographs on our Facebook site: Forensic Applications, Inc. - Bailey, CO - Medical & Health | Facebook

    Armed not with the “results” of the analysis, but merely by visually comparing the two chromatographs, we were able to demonstrate that the offending odors in the recipient office were the same profile as the suspected source business. Then, armed with that information we were able to correct the problem by addressing both the source and the pathway to everyone’s satisfaction.

    Now – I’m not sure I understood the question, but based on my understanding of the question, does that provide an answer?


    Caoimhín P. Connell
    Forensic Industrial Hygienist
    Forensic Applications Consulting Technologies, Inc. - Home

    (The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)


    Last edited by Caoimhín P. Connell; 03-07-2013 at 06:05 AM. Reason: Added question to Jerry P
    Inspection Referral SOC

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