Understanding and Reducing Odors

Are Environmental Odors Toxic? View Federal Government Factsheet

Under the supervision, and at the direction of, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Honeywell is remediating the Quanta Resources Superfund site.

Nature of Odors at Quanta

The Quanta property was the home of a roofing tar plant for more than 100 years. Roofing tar was produced from coal tar. Coal/roofing tar, which is also referred to as creosote, has a distinct odor similar to asphalt or mothballs.

Efforts to Minimize Odors

Extensive efforts are being taken to minimize odors from the coal/roofing tar that remain in the Quanta site soil; however, odors will likely occur when soil containing coal/roofing tar is first uncovered.

Additionally, because residual odors may linger in the air after the work day, you may notice a coal/roofing tar smell after construction workers have left the site. How long the odors persist depends on a number of factors; the intensity of the odor, the length of time the contaminated soil was exposed, environmental factors such as wind direction, wind speed, and air temperature.

Presence of Odors Does Not Necessarily Indicate Risk

EPA and NJDEP have been working with Honeywell to address odor issues at the site. The odors are associated with coal tar. Coal tar on the site is a viscous liquid located a foot or more beneath the ground surface. It has a low odor threshold, which means you may be able to detect this odor even at very low concentrations. The odors can be offensive to some people. The presence of the odor does not necessarily indicate a potential effect on public health. The human nose can detect coal tar odors at levels below those that indicate an unacceptable health risk.

Under EPA and NJDEP's oversight, Honeywell is collecting data daily about the concentrations of site-related chemicals to verify that they are below health-based levels (see below for more information).

For more information about environmental odors, please see this Federal government fact sheet.

Air Monitoring During Cleanup at the Quanta Site

The Health and Safety Plan and the Perimeter Air Quality Monitoring Plan, which were reviewed and approved by EPA, are key parts of the cleanup. These documents are available at the Edgewater Public Library, 49 Hudson Ave, Edgewater, NJ 07020.

Air sampling results are reviewed by health and safety personnel and compared against health-protective action levels established for the project. Real-time air monitoring results for particulate matter (PM10) and total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) are also reviewed by health and safety personnel and compared against health-protective action levels established for the project.

In addition to comparing the results to the air quality criteria, the on-site safety personnel track the air monitoring results against a separate, early warning level. This step provides an additional level of protection against possible exceedance of the air quality criteria. If this lower “action” level is reached, it immediately triggers notification to a health and safety person.

The health and safety person evaluates the reported emission source to determine if it is related to the remediation site work. If it is, the health and safety person works with the construction leader to determine what additional controls are necessary to reduce concentrations of contaminants in the air. If those additional controls are not effective and the air quality criteria are not reached, the remedial operations related to the source of the emissions are limited or stopped until the work is reassessed.

What is Being Done to Address Odors?

The following methods are being used to control odors:

  • Odor Suppressing Foam - When soil is disturbed, a nontoxic foam that is safe for the environment (Rusmar) is sprayed on the exposed soil to minimize the odors escaping into the air. Foam is applied liberally and proactively, before odors are detected.
  • Durable, weather-proof hard shell covering applied - A natural clay-based mortar (Posi-shell) is sprayed on the areas of exposed soil at the end of each work day and as necessary throughout the day. When it dries, this mortar forms a durable, weather-proof covering that prevents odor-causing materials from being exposed to the air. The application of the mortar also minimizes odors on nights, weekends, and other days when there is no active work at the site. This covering is effective in most weather conditions, including rain, cold and wind.
  • Increase use of Portland cement within Posi-shell mix - To help the Posi-shell set up faster, the team is evaluating the effectiveness of adding Portland cement to the Posi-shell spray.
  • Limiting soil exposed to the air - When feasible, debris is removed from the ground without removing all area soil first. The less soil removed from the ground, the fewer odor-producing contaminants will be exposed to the air.
  • Cover disturbed areas with plastic sheeting on Fridays - The Posi-shell has helped control odors until the recent ongoing freeze / thaw conditions. When site conditions are appropriate from a safety and accessibility perspective, plastic sheeting will be used to cover stockpiles and disturbed areas on Friday afternoons before leaving the site. These areas also will be sprayed with odor suppressant before being covered.
  • Perimeter Misters - In early October, mist generators were installed around the perimeter of the site as an upgrade to our odor management program. The misters are designed to help neutralize odors coming from the remediation work.
  • Increase in air sampling - In addition to real-time air sampling in the field, air samples are collected for laboratory analysis of individual chemicals at select locations along the perimeter. This laboratory sampling has been increased from weekly to daily during intrusive activities. The temporary increase in the frequency of sampling will continue while our health and safety personnel continue to evaluate the benefits of ongoing mitigation efforts.
  • Offsite Monitoring - Offsite air monitoring was conducted to evaluate odor complaints downwind of the site. The results of this evaluation have been used to assess whether additional fixed monitoring locations should be deployed.
  • Bio-Solve - An additional odor suppressant was tested in February 2018 for use in addition to Rusmar and Posi-shell. Bio-solve proved not to be as durable or long-lasting as Posi-shell and did not provide additional odor control.

The effectiveness of these odor control methods is being analyzed and operations are continuously being improved.