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Odours in S.E. Calgary

The S.E. area is home to residential neighborhoods as well as industrial and commercial operations. The City of Calgary is committed to working closely with the communities and interested parties in the area to keep odours to a minimum where possible. 

How to report odours


If you notice an odour issue in your community, please report it as soon as possible to 311. 

Please note that odour is a challenging issue as it can be fleeting, difficult to describe, and produces very different reactions from person to person.

We thank you for filing a report as this helps evaluate and monitor the ongoing issue.

All odour service requests are reviewed. We will get in touch only when further information is needed.

Odour reporting tips

In the 311 service request, you can include the following in the “Detailed Information” field:

  • Frequency – how often is the odour detected (continuously, daily, hourly, once a week)?
  • Intensity – how strong is the odour (very weak to very strong)?
  • Duration – how long does the odour last (seconds, minutes, hours)?
  • Type of Location – where was the odour noticed (business, residence, countryside, indoors, outdoors)?

Descr​ibe the odour in as much de​​tail as possible. 

Does it remind you of a familiar smell such as rotten eggs, rotten cabbage, sweet or sour chemicals, burning plastic, garlic, chlorine or asphalt? Is it oily, musty, metallic, pungent, light or heavy?

Tell us about the weather during the odour episode.

  • What direction was the wind from?
  • Was the wind light, moderate or strong?
  • Was it sunny, overcast or raining?

Odour sources in S.E. Calgary


S.E. communities most often impacted by odours include:

  • New Brighton
  • McKenzie Towne
  • Copperfield
  • Douglasdale/Douglasglen

Many different sources contribute to odours in the area which may occur at the same time or at different times. Sources include City of Calgary infrastructure as well as private agricultural and industrial activities in the area (not operated by The City).

There is no single odour source that has been clearly identified as being the highest contributor to the odour issues in the S.E. Because of this, The City is working to mitigate odours from multiple potential sources to lessen the impacts of odour on S.E. residents.

The City’s priority is focused on its own infrastructures where it has greater control to make a difference for odours in the area.

Key City infrastructure

General

What The City is currently working on

  • A project to design and install a series of active real-time odour monitoring sensors is underway. This fixed system will work in real time to track smells, validate the existing 311 data coming in from residents, and help The City work on more targeted solutions.

This type of system is complex and unique. The City is working to balance the urgency of this work with the need to carefully plan and design a system that will provide accurate, reliable, and useful information.

  • City staff are working with S.E. community associations to provide updates as additional work in all areas is completed. 

Lagoons

Calgary’s Shepard lagoons are an important part of our biosolids program enabling The City to recover and recycle nutrient-rich organic matter for agricultural purposes. 

Biosolids from the wastewater treatment plants are pumped to the Shepard Lagoons for gravity settling and then utilized by the Calgro program as a soil conditioner.

What The City is currently working on

  • The City is investigating an upgrade of the existing misting system at the lagoons.
  • Planting trees is being investigated by The City.  City sites have a lot of underground infrastructure that could be damaged by planting new trees. This project is being reviewed to ensure its effectiveness would outweigh its costs and potential risks.

Previous mitigations

  • Operations were modified in spring 2023 for the dewatered Biosolids storage. Stockpiled material is no longer disturbed until it has been in place for at least 2 weeks whenever possible.

    Moving stored material less frequently will allow it to form a crust and create less odours when it does need to be moved.  

What do odours smell like from this location?

Ammonia, musty, earthy odour

Related links

Composting Facility

The Calgary Composting Facility is an integral part of the city-wide Green Cart program. It processes around 120,000 tonnes of food and yard waste each year, turning it into a nutrient-rich finished compost.

What The City is currently working on

Facility Expansion

  • The expansion will see new technology added to the facility operations. An anaerobic digestion system will complement the existing in-vessel composting process. This will allow the facility to handle a larger volume of organics through an enclosed system that will help control the odours produced. It will also capture bio-gas that will be upgraded into a renewable natural gas. Learn more about expansion here.
  • Construction has begun and is anticipated to finish by end of 2025.

Operational

  • The City is working with the Composting Facility operator to reduce the amount of material on the storage pad. This includes incentivizing customers to pick-up their purchased compost sooner, and new initiatives to reduce process by-product on site, and potentially an off-site storage area. Efforts are made to minimize activity when wind is blowing toward neighbouring communities where possible. 

Previous mitigations

  • A complete replacement of biofilter media was completed in Spring 2023.
  • The City worked with Jacobs Engineering and the Composting Facility operator to upgrade the existing biofilter performance monitoring program, and implemented recommended additions and improvements including increased frequency of testing, and a broader scope of parameters being monitored.

What do odours smell like from this location?

Acidic, wet vegetation, barnyard, peat, earthy

Related links

Landfill

The Shepard Waste Management Facility operates an active landfill and other related waste disposal infrastructure and services. The Shepard landfill is classified as a Class II non-hazardous waste landfill as per the provincial Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA). Through day-to-day operations, the landfill must follow detailed operational plans and other regulatory requirements. The facility is primarily used for residential waste with limited commercial activity.

What The City is currently working on

The Shepard landfill is limiting commercial activity compared to other City landfill facilities. The City has and will continue to regularly review what types of waste are accepted, and review opportunities for further diversion of material to keep it out of the landfill. 

What do odours smell like from this location?

Garbage-like, sour

Related links

Stormwater

Calgary is home to many storm ponds, wetlands (both natural and constructed) and other infrastructure to support our stormwater management system. Stormwater is the water from rainstorms or melting snow that goes into the storm drains in the road through an underground pipe system and to our rivers. The City manages stormwater infrastructure to reduce the impact of flooding in communities and pollution and stream erosion in our waterways. This includes storm drains, wet and dry ponds, wetlands, outfalls and more.

What The City is currently working on

Stormwater systems are carefully managed and monitored for odour issues as needed.

What do odours smell like from this location?

Swampy, sulphur-like smell

Related links

Sewer

All the water that is flushed down toilets, drained from bathtubs or used for doing dishes and washing clothes drains into a sewage collection system.  This wastewater is carried through sewer pipes by way of gravity and lift/pump stations to one of The City’s wastewater treatment plants, where it goes through a series of processes before it is released as clean water into the Bow River. The City operates approximately 10,000 kilometres of sewers, 92 pumping plants and three wastewater treatment plants.

What The City is currently working on

The City uses various measures to help control and reduce sewer-related odours including:

  • odour complaint response and investigation; 
  • sewer construction, repair and routine maintenance; 
  • chemical addition;
  • air withdrawal and treatment from the collection system;
  • on-going monitoring of sewer air pressure and odour concentration.

What do odours smell like from this location?

Sulphur-like smell

Other

There are other odour sources that could be contributing to odours in the S.E including private businesses.

  • Wetlands – south and east of the Shepard Complex
  • Other industrial sources
  • Agricultural activities east of Stoney Trail

What The City is currently working on

The City’s priority will initially focus on its own infrastructures where it has greater control to make a difference for odours in the area. The City will also look to improve monitoring of other potential sources and engage with outside parties to encourage minimizing of odours wherever possible.

What do odours smell like from this location?

Wetlands: Swampy, sulphur-like smell

Other sources: various e.g. food processing and manufacturing, stockyards and livestock processing facilities, hydrovac land application, manure etc

How temperature inversions can impact the S.E. area


Temperature inversions occur all over the city but can have a significant impact on odours in the S.E. area.

A temperature inversion occurs when a ‘layer’ of warmer air settles above cooler air at the surface. The warmer air is light, compared to the heavier and dense cooler air, which creates a ‘ceiling’ that traps the cooler air close to the surface. 

When this happens, the cooler air is not able to disperse as it normally would. It will then ‘trap’ any odours in S.E. Calgary neighbourhoods and will concentrate these odours closer to the ground. During inversions you may see much more noticeable ‘smog’ around the city or notice that everyday smells such as vehicle exhaust seem stronger.

Inversions can also frequently result in a higher-than-normal air quality index (meaning poorer air quality) and even special air quality statements from Environment Canada. Publicly available air quality data from the Calgary Regional Airshed Zone (CRAZ) will also typically show an increase in all monitored compounds.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why did The City allow residential communities to be built near the Shepard area?

The Shepard industrial area was established in the 1960s in the farthest edges of the City limits at the time. As Calgary has continued to grow, it required expansion into these areas to accommodate residential demand. There are many communities in Calgary that border industrial areas and are good neighbors to each other. 

Why is it so hard to detect odours?

Odours can be very subjective in nature – what is offensive to one person, may not be the same for another. Smells are also fleeting, can be difficult to describe or recall, making it challenging to monitor properly.  An odour that may be at your location can be gone in a matter of minutes before it can be reviewed. 

What is The City doing to improve the odours in the S.E.?

The City is taking steps to mitigate odours from several of our operations in the area. This includes some upgrades to existing systems, development of entirely new systems, as well as operational improvements in how we currently run our various infrastructure.

The largest project is a permanent odour monitoring system that will help us track the most impactful sources so that we can act on more targeted efforts. For further details, please see the tabs above that describe initiatives in more detail by facility.

Can we move The City infrastructure to another location?

It is not feasible to pick up and move these vital infrastructures that help make our city run properly, just as it is unfeasible to pick up all the homes and move them to another location. As neighbors, we will need to work together to improve the situation. 

Is there anything harmful in the air?

No. While smells may be strong at times, there is nothing dangerous in the air. The investigation work returned very low levels of all chemical compounds tested for.

What can be done about private businesses making odours?

Odours from industrial sources are usually related to air quality regulations. Strategies and actions to reduce pollution, involve different levels of governments, business, and organizations. For information on Air Quality in our City, please visit our Air Quality page.

How to submit air quality complaints related to industrial emissions or nuisance smoke and dust:

Industrial emissions – The provincial government regulates air emissions from industrial sources. Report concerns by calling the Energy & Environment 24-7 Response Line at 1-800-222-6514.

Nuisance smoke and dust – The City of Calgary prohibits activities that allow smoke, dust or other airborne matter without taking reasonable precautions in the Community Standards Bylaw.  Report concerns by contacting 311.

What can I do to help improve odours in the neighborhood?

Please continue to report odour issues to 311. This can be done by phone or online. Please include, as accurately as possible, the date, time, and location you noticed the odour. All complaints are reviewed and tracked.

It is very important for The City to continue to receive this feedback so we know whether our efforts are making a difference or if there are new issues being identified. 

I've already reported an odour before. Why do you need me to do it again?

Continuous reporting is needed to help keep track of odour trends. Although odour can be measured with equipment, the best tool for measuring odour is the human nose which is where you come in.

By utilizing both technology and on-the-ground reporting from the people experiencing odours, it will help The City know whether our efforts are making a difference or if there are new issues or changing conditions being identified.

Will there be an option to report odours on the 311 app?

All odour concerns are submitted to the same 311 service request. At this time, odour concerns related to sewage/gas/fuel leaks are prioritized for emergency review. Due to technical limitations, there are challenges in adding the odours request to the 311 app at this time without interfering with the emergency odour review processes. In order to ensure the safety of the community, revised processes and technical upgrades would be needed to add this report to the 311 app.

If you are not able to call into 311, you can use this mobile-friendly 311 online service request form to submit your odour concern instead. 

Will the odours ever be gone?

Odours are a part of a growing, busy city and can be found in all quadrants of Calgary. The City of Calgary is committed to ensuring that odours are minimized where possible so that it does not negatively impact the quality of life for area residents. Occasional odours, while unwelcome, are not to be unexpected.

S.E. Odour Investigation project


Through 2022 and 2023, The City of Calgary worked with Jacobs Engineering to investigate the issues around odours in the S.E. area. The investigation primarily focused on City-operated facilities where it has greater control to impact odours.

The goals of the third-party project were:

To determine where odours may be coming from and what activities from those sites might be contributing to them;

To provide The City with an air sampling and dispersion modelling program to assist in identifying significant odour sources

To review the current odour control measures at the sites and recommend odour control measures to City-operated facilities to reduce impacts to the surrounding area.

Southland lagoon

Project phases

Task 1 – Preliminary Investigation

Jacobs conducted a preliminary analysis looking at a:

  • Data review consisting of 311 complaint data, weather conditions, wind direction and other factors.
  • Site review including field odour measurements.

This helped to identify potential odour sources for further investigation.

Task 2 – Air Monitoring

Air sampling was conducted from odour sources identified in Task 1 to look for odour “fingerprints” to be compared with air samples collected from affected neighbourhoods. This air sampling also measured odour intensity to be used in Task 3. The odour fingerprinting was inconclusive, in that no compounds detected in affected neighbourhoods matched uniquely to any specific odour source.

The data gathered can be used for computer modelling and the development of future, additional monitoring.

Task 3 – Air Dispersion Computer Modelling

Using the odour intensity results of the Task 2 air sampling, Jacobs developed an odour dispersion computer model to identify different scenarios for the frequency, intensity, duration, and location of odour impacts in the S.E. communities identified. The computer modelling shows how the odour disperses, and how strong it is as it moves away from its source. This was based on the measured odour intensities and historic weather information.

The computer modelling showed that the biosolids lagoons are the largest contributor to odours. However, these modelled odour intensities only reached the typical ‘threshold of odour perception and recognition under real-world conditions for most people’ a few times in a year, and only at the very edge of affected neighbourhoods.

These results are not consistent with what is being reported by Calgarians and more work is required to identify other potential sources and ensure that mitigation measures are going to help.

Task 4 - Recommended Mitigation Measures

In the final phase of the investigation, Jacobs subject matter experts completed site reviews of various City operations as well as interviews with operational staff. Through this work, Jacobs developed a list of recommendations to minimize odour, which were evaluated for effectiveness, other impacts/consequences, and cost.

Project recommendations

The following are mitigation measures recommended in the S.E. Odour Investigation Report by Jacobs Engineering to The City of Calgary based on their effectiveness and cost. Possible mitigation measures were considered but not recommended by Jacobs at this time due to low effectiveness or unmanageable impacts on operations (e.g. completely relocating operations).

  • The number of recommendations for each specific infrastructure varies but does not necessarily reflect how much odour that infrastructure may be contributing to the area.
  • There are a limited number of near term, feasible options to reduce odours for some of the infrastructure.
  • Additional measures were considered by Jacobs but they did not recommend them at this time due to low effectiveness or impractical impacts on operations (e.g. completely relocating operations).

Related links

Mitigation measures

The mitigation measures were evaluated based on the scales below for effectiveness and cost:

X                          Ineffective

✔                         Mildly Effective

✔✔                      Somewhat Effective

✔✔✔                   Highly Effective

✔✔✔✔                Extremely Effective

$                        Very Low Cost (< $2 M)

$$                      Low Cost ($2 – 8 M)

$$$                    Medium Cost ($8 – 15 M)

$$$$                  High Cost ($15 – 30 M)

$$$$$                Extremely Costly (> $30 M)

All recommendations are currently being actioned (ongoing), are complete or require further investigation. Please see the Key City infrastructure tabs for the most current details.

General

Mitigations Recommended for Implementation How this will help with odours Effectiveness Cost Status
Establish a process to regularly communicate with residents and other interested parties (i.e., Community Associations) to increase knowledge of existing odour mitigation measures and any future plans/projects to reduce odours While this recommendation will not directly impact odours themselves, it will improve communication with neighbours in southeast communities. Calgarians in these communities will be kept informed of actions being taken to reduce odours in the area. ✔✔ $ Ongoing
Install a series of active real-time odour and odour compound monitoring sensors throughout adjacent community and along the Shepard Complex perimeter to gather real-time odour data This type of system will improve The City’s knowledge of exactly where and when odours are being generated, allowing more focused mitigation actions. ✔✔ $$ Ongoing

Lagoons

Mitigations Recommended for Implementation How this will help with odours Effectiveness Cost Status
Improve and automate existing misting system Upgrades and automation will help provide consistent and timely odour coverage. ✔✔ $$ Ongoing
Surround lagoons with trees Trees, or other barriers, can act as a barrier to both operations and odourous air. A physical barrier causes dispersion of an air pocket as it is forced to move over or around the barrier. ✔✔ $$ Investigation
Modify operations at dewatered Biosolids storage to ensure stockpiled material is not disturbed until it has been in place for at least 2 weeks whenever possible. Moving stored material less frequently will allow it to form a crust and create less odours when it does need to be moved.   ✔✔ N/A Complete

Composting Facility

Capital Improvement
Mitigations Recommended for Implementation How this will help with odours Effectiveness Cost Status
Facility Expansion – addition of horizontal plug flow anerobic digestion (HPFAD) system. The expansion of the compost facility with the HPFAD system is expected to have several positive effects on managing and reducing odours. By incorporating a HPFAD system into the compost facility, a larger volume of organics can be handled through an enclosed process that will help control the odours produced.  ✔✔✔ $$$$$ Ongoing
Operational Opportunities
Mitigations Recommended for Implementation How this will help with odours Effectiveness Cost Status
Biofilter – explore opportunities to improve biofilter performance which could include additional performance monitoring, a higher stack height and more frequent biofilter media replacement. Biofilter is the odour treatment system for all air being exhausted from the main building. Ensuring that the biofilter is working at effectively is critical to facility odour management. ✔✔✔ $-$$ Ongoing
Curing building – Review operations to optimize conditions for composting including floor aeration,  curing times and windrow operations. Optimal conditions for composting minimize odour emitted during the process. ✔✔✔✔ $-$$ Ongoing
Outdoor storage of finished compost - Limit the amount of finished material stored on the pad. Reducing the amount of material on the storage pad simply reduces the size of the potential odour source. ✔✔✔✔ $$ Ongoing

Shepard landfill

Mitigations Recommended for Implementation How this will help with odours Effectiveness Cost Status
Review types of waste allowed to be disposed of at landfill and eliminate odourous waste types where possible Removing waste known to produce odours from landfill would reduce odour emitted at the landfill. ✔✔✔✔ $ Ongoing

Sewer

As part of the S.E. Odours investigation Report, Jacobs Engineering investigated the East McKenzie Lift Station, but it was determined that the lift station does not contribute to significant odours in the area.

Stormwater

As part of the S.E. odour investigation, it was determined that the storm management system does not contribute to significant odours in the area.

Other

Private activities

Jacobs Engineering also identified other odour sources that could be contributing to odours in the S.E including private businesses.

  • Wetlands – south and east of the Shepard Complex
  • Other industrial sources
  • Agricultural activities east of Stoney Trail

No specific mitigation recommendations were made in relation to these odour sources at this time except for the installation of a real-time odour monitoring system for the area.

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