Weather Forecast


'Nasal ranger' sniffs out city odor sources

NEWPORT, Minn. — After 112 observations with the "nasal ranger" over eight days this summer and fall, the Ramsey/Washington County Recycling and Energy Center has reached a conclusion: the weather affects whether the garbage smell travels south to Newport.

The county center near the St. Paul-Newport border came to the conclusion after collecting data from 14 sites around Newport and the center during an odor mitigation study.

Consultants used a nasal ranger olfactometer to measure the odors at those locations and a kestrel to record different weather conditions.

Based on the observations, Judy Hunter of the Washington County Health Department said they "determined the greatest factor is wind direction."

The study also detected other smells — often layered with other odors — such as asphalt, chemical, diesel, floral, grassy, rendering, restaurant fryer and vehicle exhaust, said Hunter.

There were also 23 complaints received through the South St. Paul odor complaint form and directly to Hunter.

The study was meant to create a "baseline," she said, so that the center can conclude when the smell is detectable and work to develop solutions.

"This is the beginning really of the discussion on how we can mitigate some of the odors...and how we can be a partner on that," Washington County Commissioner Karla Bigham said.

Recommendations from the recycling and energy board are expected early 2017.

"I hope you move quickly to address that and don't underestimate the effect of the contribution of the recycling center," council member Bill Sumner said. "It was very strong (when I was) on site, and I could identify that odor, and it's an odor commonly associated with northwest winds."

There are other sites around Newport that were identified as potential odors sites, though the Recycling and Energy Center is concentrating on solutions within its own facility at this time.

During the study, members of the Recycling and Energy Board met with representatives from Newport, Washington County Community Development Authority, South St. Paul and Sanimax.

In the conversation with South St. Paul, they identified potential odor-causing operations in the community, including two animal slaughterhouses, a hide and leather tanning operation, animal byproduct processing, a sewer lift station, veterinarian hospital/crematorium, and a yard waste compost site.