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Integrated model for estimating odor emissions from civil wastewater treatment plants

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The objective of this research project was the design and development of an integrated model for odor emission estimation in wastewater treatment plants. The SMAT’s plant, the largest wastewater treatment facility in Italy, was used as a case study. This article reports the results of the characterization phase that led to the definition and design of the proposed conceptual model for odor emission estimation. In this phase, concentrations of odor chemical tracers (VOC, H2S, NH3) and odor concentrations were monitored repeatedly. VOC screening with GC-MS analysis was also performed. VOC concentrations showed significant variability in space and magnitude. NH3 and H2S were also detected at considerable concentrations. Results were elaborated to define a spatially variable linear relationship between the sum of odor activity values (SOAV) and odor concentrations. Based on the results, a conceptual operational model was presented and discussed. The proposed system is composed by a network of continuous measurement stations, a set of algorithms for data elaboration and synchronization, and emission dispersion modeling with the application of Lagrangian atmospheric models.

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Fig. 1
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Dimethyl disulfide


Equivalent odor concentration


Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry


Hydrogen sulfide

NH3 :



Odor activity value


Odor unit


Photo-ionization detector


Proton transfer reaction–mass spectrometry


Sum of odor activity value


Sum of odor index


Universal asynchronous receiver–transmitter


Universal serial bus


Volatile organic carbon


Wastewater treatment plant


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Correspondence to Marco Ravina.

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Ravina, M., Panepinto, D., Mejia Estrada, J. et al. Integrated model for estimating odor emissions from civil wastewater treatment plants. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 3992–4007 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-06939-5

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  • Odor monitoring
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Odor dispersion modeling
  • Odor activity value
  • Odor tracers
  • Olfactometry