Understanding Odors

Odors can come from a variety of sources and in the City of Richmond, there are many possible points of origin: refineries, rail yards, truck/car exhaust from nearby freeways, mills and plants, application of organic fertilizer, large composting facilities and of course the wastewater treatment plant and sewer system. Weather conditions, such as wind direction, can also make these odors more noticeable and difficult to pinpoint the source. Odors are certainly a natural part of the wastewater treatment process and as such, Veolia invests a considerable effort in monitoring, controlling and resolving odor emissions that originate from the plant and sewer collection system.


Weather plays a major role in whether odors of any kind are detected. Wind direction, rain, warm temperatures and other factors can all influence the sensitivity to odors. On warmer days, you may be more sensitive to odors, while rain and winds coming from the north often help to disperse odors and keep them to a minimum.


Veolia has made significant improvements and upgrades to mitigate odor issues. Most odors come from the collection system when flows come up in the morning. To address this, Veolia maintains a higher level of water in the collection system which helps prevent odors from escaping.

A masking agent is also used in high odor areas of the plant and recently, an organic odor bed was installed on the plant grounds. Odors from the headworks, a part of the treatment process where odors are more prevalent, are captured and funneled underground through a pipe and then pass through the odor bed, a rock-like ground cover, which filters the odors naturally through tree bark before they pass harmlessly into the air.

Recently, more than 80 aging manhole covers were replaced throughout the City of Richmond - primarily in the Point Richmond neighborhood - with more modern covers that completely seal the openings to the sewer system below. The older manhole covers were perforated with "pick holes" that allowed for their easy removal by sewer crew. The new ones prevent odors from escaping. These new covers will continue to be installed throughout the City of Richmond. In 2011, we expect almost XXX to be replaced.

Equipment from the aging facility was in various stages of disrepair and deterioration when Veolia took over the facility in 2002. Replacing old or defective parts, such as the digester covers which were degraded from corrosive elements, is part of the improvements and upgrades to the facility that will provide years of service.


Because odors affect quality of life for Richmond residents, Veolia maintains a vigilant process for monitoring odor emissions from the plant and the city's sewer system. The company conducts odor patrols three times a day both inside the plant grounds and out in the community. Readings, using sophisticated Jerome meters, are taken in key areas of the plant: at the headworks where odors are most prevalent and along the north fence line near our construction trailer which is an indicator of what might be leaving the plant and impacting the neighborhood. In addition, readings are taken at Washington Elementary School and two locations around Point Richmond. These readings are captured in daily odor monitoring logs and we make those available to the community through this web site. Click here to view the odor logs.

We have also installed two fixed odor meters at the plant. One at the plant and one XXXX. These provide automatic readings to the operations monitoring system with real-time data on odor levels so that staff can take appropriate action to mitigate them as warranted.


Veolia makes it easy to report odors through a single phone line that is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That number is (510) 412-2001.


When a call comes into Veolia's odor reporting line, it is given immediately to a Veolia employee who is responsible for investigating, reporting and resolving the issue. To view the complete process for responding to odor complaints, click here.