What’s That Smell? Wastewater Edition

Sewage is not known for its pleasant aroma, but what exactly is that smell, and what causes it? The municipal wastewater treatment process can release odors in the collection and treatment process. Wastewater is mostly water, but it also contains organic and inorganic matter, bacteria, and other microorganisms. These all contribute to processes that release gases into the air that are unpleasant and easy to smell, even at low concentrations. The common culprits are mainly sulfides, mercaptans, amines, other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). For example, hydrogen sulfide has a “rotten egg” smell and is detectable to the human nose at only 0.00047 ppm (parts per million). That’s less than less than 0.00000005%, so if even a tiny amount makes it to your nose, you are going to know it.

So, what can we do about it? A common solution is to pass this odorous air through activated carbon to capture these compounds like a sponge. Activated carbon is helpful because its readily available and works pretty well at capturing a wide range of these gases. It does have some weaknesses. Granular activated carbon doesn’t have a uniform shape or size, and this can cause problems for airflow. It prefers to absorb moisture from the air instead of some of these odors, and wastewater treatment environments are pretty humid, so odors can still get released into the air. Also, activated carbon wasn’t made specifically for this job, so it doesn’t work great against all of these gases. This is why Purafil has created “engineered media” meaning it was created specifically to solve all of these problems. It is designed to capture these specific odors better than anything else on the market, it has very uniform size and shape to prevent airflow blockage, and it works great even in humid environments. Also, it converts these odors into a harmless salt so that they don’t accidentally get released back into the air and you can test it to learn when it needs to be replaced instead of waiting for odor complaints.

Do you have a persistent odor problem? Would you like to find out when you need to replace your filter media? Contact the air quality experts at Purafil today.

Recommended Posts



Recent Posts


The Most Destructive Corrosive Element in Process Control and Equipment Rooms

Corrosion of contacts and components on circuit boards accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of all equipment failures in process control and equipment rooms. This corrosion is caused by an unmanaged environment that makes it susceptible to harmful elements such as temperature and humidity. However, the number one most destructive element in process control […]

Date: 2024-05-09


View More

Why Choose Air Filtration Media Made in the USA?

The Purafil Peace of Mind has its foundation in our patented filtration media, proudly made in our Doraville, Georgia headquarters. From diagnosis of your particular issue to media design, manufacturing, and monitoring, our process ensures your facility is kept free from harmful air pollutants that can reduce the lifespan of your equipment, cause odor complaints, […]

Date: 2024-01-24


View More

What is an ISO 17025 Accreditation (and Why Does it Matter)?

On April 23, 2019, Purafil was presented with its official International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 17025:2017 lab accreditation certificate. This accreditation effort was led by our Laboratory Operations Manager, Chelsea Newton, and establishes that our processes and procedures exceed the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation’s (A2LA) impeccable standards. ISO 17025 accreditation is a big deal—to […]

Date: 2023-12-12


View More