What’s that smell?

Waste management authority still trying to odors under control
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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What to do:

If you detect an odor, call the Western Placer Waste Management Authority at (916) 543-3960.


WPWMA seeks feedback on when residents detect the cherry scene neutralizer. To participate, visit

There was a lot of trash talk going on during a community meeting Wednesday as Western Placer Waste Management Authority staff discussed how the municipal agency is working to reduce odor produced by its composting and landfill operations on Fiddyment Road in the Sunset Industrial Area.

For the past several years, residents in nearby parts of Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln have complained of smells coming from the facilities, especially during windy days. One resident in the audience of about 25 people described the smell as “gut-wrenching.”

An odor survey in 2007 found two main sources for onsite odor: compost operations and methane gas produced at the landfill as waste decomposes. Secondary sources include nearby wastewater treatment plants, a poultry farm, wood-burning facility, propane facility and another composting operation.

Diane Cochran, another resident, said she smells offensive odors everyday, including the previous night.

“I could smell it with the windows open, but as soon as I turned the whole house fan on, my whole house was inundated with it,” Cochran said.

WPWMA, a joint-powers authority comprised of Placer County and the cities of Lincoln, Rocklin and Roseville, held the meeting to update the public on ongoing efforts to address the problem. The agency owns and operates the landfill, materials recovery facility and green waste compositing facility.

The agency has implemented measures to reduce odors, which include a landfill gas collection system expansion, no longer burying waste on the weekends and burying sewage sludge immediately after it is received.

“But, as I’m sure you’re all aware, we haven’t completely tackled (the problem) yet, but we’re working diligently to do so,” Environmental Engineering Program Manager Eric Oddo said.

Oddo said the agency will never be able to completely eliminate odors produced from this facility.

“But we don’t want it to get to the point where you can’t go outside, can’t have a barbecue, can’t go to sleep,” he said.

WPWMA is also embarking on two projects with potentially significant impacts, he said, which includes installation of a continuous odor monitoring system and the launch on Monday of an eight-week demonstration project to evaluate the effectiveness of an odor neutralizer in reducing the frequency and intensity of odors.

The neutralizer, which has been treated with a cherry scent, will be applied to composting and landfill operations at different times throughout the experiment. This neutralizer is intended to neutralize waste-related orders rather than mask them. If effective, the permanently used neutralizer would be unscented.

The agency has operated the Western Regional Sanitary Landfill since 1978, and odors didn’t become a problem until after the housing boom of the early to mid-2000s, where residential developments moved closer to the landfill. Placer County has established a 1-mile buffer around the landfill prohibiting residential development.

The landfill — the only active on in the county — is permitted through 2042, and expected to have sufficient capacity through 2058. The agency also operates a materials recovery and a composting facility, both built in 1995 to assist cities with meeting California state requirements to divert recyclables from landfills.

WPWMA Deputy Director Bill Zimmerman told the audience to fill out the online form on the agency’s website whenever they smell odors.

“If I could encourage people to do something, it’s to go through this process, pick up the phone, fill out this form — it’s incredibly helpful to us,” Zimmerman said.