Question: Do you have resources on odor logs and odor reporting platforms?

gretchengehrke is asking a question about air-quality
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by gretchengehrke | July 07, 2017 20:40 | #14632

I'm interested in how people document and report odors, both to compile community information and to notify local authorities of a problem that needs to be addressed.

What resources have you seen? Does your county have a reporting form or online platform? Have you used on online platform like SmellPGH or the FracTracker app? I'd love to compile a list and people's thoughts about their utility for different purposes!


I know of a couple of well established online reporting platforms, each with somewhat different features:

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s iWitness Map. This is based on (an older version of) the Ushahidi platform, and allows people to make and classify reports of smells, visible flaring, symptoms, etc. I haven’t been involved directly with it, but I know it was very effective in 2014 when the community of St. Rose was experiencing bad pollution from a nearby tank farm. Their stack of reports, put in the right hands, resulted in regulators doing additional air monitoring in the community.

IVAN (Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods) network is a reporting platform used by a number of California communities. I believe the the technology is similar to the iWitness Map, but a key component of IVAN is that communities work in partnership with public agencies to evaluate and act on the problems documented by reporting. The Center for Regional Change at UC Davis has released a study of the network (complete with benefits, challenges, and recommendations).

Thanks Gwen @ottinger! These are great resources. We have community members in central CA who have used IVAN for visual emissions -- it's good to know about the odor reporting too.

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My lab at Drexel University, the Fair Tech Collective, has also been working on a brand-new platform, Air Watch Bay Area, with refinery neighbors in Northern California. Our platform actually has (1) a reporting component and (2) a data exploration component: it enables community members to look at historical, real-time air monitoring data collected at refinery fencelines. Reports appear alongside the data, showing not only where they are on a map but also when they happened in relation to measured levels of chemicals. Smell reporting is based on SmellPGH but also includes the ability to upload pictures, which form a kind of photo blog on a separate page. That was inspired by Ushahidi/iWitness/IVAN, but uses different code to make it more flexible with respect to the presentation of the images.

Importantly, reporting to our platform can be done via an app or via a website: we found that our potential users (many of them older people) were not uniformly comfortable with apps.

Our platform is all open source. Sufyan, one of the talented developers who have made it happen, will post with more details.

We have been in the development phase for the last year and a half and are only just feeling ready for prime time. We’re hoping usage will pick up over the coming months. We can post updates here, if there’s interest. In the meanwhile, we welcome feedback, adopters, and contributors!

@ottinger, the Air Watch Bay Area platform is exciting! Please do post updates. I appreciate the ability to print out a daily report that includes instrument detection limits. Would there by a way to include expected precision as well? Including the health-relevant standards in the report is great too!

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Interestingly, the ATSDR has guidelines for pencil-and-paper "odor diaries".

Reply to this comment... looks pretty interesting. @joe @stevie @xose just noting as we work on CSF planning!

Odour pollution has been consistently ignored by Governments when considering their environmental policies. This is despite it being the second most common subject of public complaints across Europe. Odour pollution is not just an unpleasant nuisance but also associated with headaches, stress and respiratory problems. Perhaps more worryingly odour is an indicator of larger environmental problems such as poor sanitation and excessive levels of chemical pollution.

The lack of regulation from authorities around odour pollution is largely due to it being difficult to reliably measure and the potential solutions being costly to implement. In addition, industrial stakeholders rely on the issue of poor data and inadequate monitoring techniques to oppose any new initiatives to tackle the problems. Some efforts have been made to regulate odours throughout Europe, however in the absence of standardised levels, definitions and criteria, efforts are severely hampered.

Mapping for Change is working with partners across Europe and beyond on the Decentralised Network for Odour Sensing, Empowerment and Sustainability (D-NOSES) project. D-NOSES will change the way in which odour pollution is currently addressed at all levels of government. The project will share expert scientific knowledge in odour detection and measurement with the public to build an evidence base. The results will inform future plans to reduce odour pollution, develop a standardised set of regulations and influence policy at a local, national and European level.

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