Larissa Richards and Dr. Nick Davey monitoring the data inside the new research vehicle, known fondly as the Mass Specmobile. — Vancouver Island University photo

RDN, VIU team up on stinky project in French Creek

Program being set up to monitor odours at pollution control centre

The French Creek Pollution Control Centre emits unpleasant odours that are impacting surrounding residents.

The Regional District of Nanaimo is taking action and has teamed up with the Vancouver Island University Applied Environmental Research Laboratories to address the issue.

The plan is to implement a state-of-the art air quality monitoring program to fingerprint the centre’s current odour emissions.

This partnership comes at an opportune time and builds upon the Regional Air Quality Mapping Pilot Project, which VIU undertook in 2018 with the aid of a $5,000 grant from the RDN Carbon Tax Reserve.

The coming monitoring program will focus on measuring odours at the centre and in the surrounding community. Monitoring starts this month and will run for a year, with multi-day sampling campaigns in spring, summer, fall and winter.

The results will inform RDN engineers of the most effective ways to incorporate odour control upgrades into the wastewater treatment plant.

“This initiative and future upgrades will enhance the overall quality of life for neighbouring residents and visitors,” said RDN board chairman Ian Thorpe. “We are pleased to continue to partner with VIU, finding ways to work together to better our region.”

Through this partnership, an RDN’s contribution of $20,000 will be matched by a $20,000 grant from VIU’s Regional Initiatives Fund. VIU will also provide an in-kind contribution of faculty and staff time valued at $21,100, and RDN engineering and operations staff will contribute an estimated 80 hours to this project.

“This is an excellent example of research in the public interest” says Dr. Erik Krogh, one of the principal investigators from VIU involved in the project. “We are very excited to have our student researchers involved in projects where we live and learn. This is a novel application of mobilized mass spectrometers to provide high precision field data in an attempt to relate odour profiles to molecular signals.”

This innovative monitoring program represents the first use of VIU’s new Mobile Mass Spectrometry Lab to:

Analyze odour-producing substances associated with wastewater treatment, green waste production, agriculture and marine estuaries; Map their distribution at a neighborhood scale; Assess the seasonal variability in odour sources and regional distributions; and Recommend potential odour control measures.

The Mobile Mass Spectrometry Lab is unique in Canada and was developed at VIU by Krogh and Dr. Chris Gill (Co-Directors of the AERL) with the support of nearly a $1-million research investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the BC Knowledge Development Fund.

The centre accepts and treats wastewater from 27,000 people and businesses in Qualicum Beach, Parksville, and regional service areas.

— NEWS Staff/RDN submission

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