Understanding and Reducing Odors

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 remains in the Quanta site soil. Beginning in April 2019, most of the remaining soil cleanup work (90%) will take place under tents, and air from the tents will be treated before being released to the environment. Remaining areas of the site cannot be treated under tents because of physical characteristics. For these areas, vapor mitigation techniques, such as minimizing the size of the work areas and applying odor suppression foam, will be used.

These work techniques and mitigation measures will significantly reduce odors from the site. However, odors may still be noticeable on occasion. 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 several factors, including the intensity of the odor, the length of time the contaminated soil was exposed, and 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.

Are Environmental Odors Toxic? View Federal Government Factsheet

What is Being Done to Address Odors?

To control odors at the site, the majority (90%) of the remaining soil remediation work will be conducted under tents. More information about controlling air quality under tents can be found here.

For the remaining area that cannot be completed under tents, extensive vapor emissions techniques will be implemented. More information about those techniques can be found here.