Small wastewater treatment plants are often localized nearby tourist areas. Odour emissions are a major environmental issue in these plants and are considered to be the main cause of disturbance noticed by the exposed population. Odour measurement is carried out using analytical or sensorial methods. Sensorial analysis, being assigned to the “human sensor”, is the cause of a considerable uncertainty.

In this study, a novel procedure based on highly innovative analytical tool was used to identify and characterise the odour sources and the volatile substances that cause annoyance in a SWWTP located in a sensitive area, with the aim to remove the subjective component in the measure of the odours and define the induced impact. At the same time key odour compounds are detected, and the relationship between their concentration and the performances of the plant are investigated.

The sources and the main chemical substances responsible for the olfactory annoyances were identified. Results highlight the applicability of the highly innovative tool in odour emission monitoring. Around 39 different substances were detected, with almost half being smell relevant components as well as responsible. Dimethyl disulphide was identified as key compound connected to the efficiency of the process.

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