Nuisance Odor Results in $2.3 Million in Damages

Source: Marketing Weekly News, May 5, 2012
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Last month, The State published a news story about a federal jury awarding six residents of Bishopville, South Carolina with a $2.3 million verdict. The residents had complained and filed a lawsuit against a landfill owner for nuisance odors that they claimed made their life miserable.
The multimillion dollar verdict followed two weeks of testimony and several days of jury deliberations. The residents were awarded $532,500 in actual damages and another $1.8 million in punitive damages.
Landfill odors are a common problem across the nation. These odors can be a real nuisance to nearby residents, lower property values and potentially be a health concern.
When waste is deposited in a landfill it begins to decompose through the action of microbes. Some waste will volatize as liquids and solids begin to off-gas. Some of the most common sources of odors in landfills include sulfides and ammonia. The rotten-egg smell commonly associated with landfills is easily detected by humans at low levels and is typically caused by sulfides in the air. Ammonia can also produce a pungent odor recognized by many.
“Another group of chemicals often associated with landfills are non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs),” reported Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, a leading nuisance odor testing laboratory. According to a pamphlet from the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health, “There is concern that long-term exposure to high levels of NMOCs could lead to health problems, but health studies have been largely inconclusive.”
The migration of gases from a landfill is also a potential hazard if they enter nearby buildings at high concentrations. Gases like methane can cause explosion hazards and gases such as carbon dioxide are an asphyxiation hazard at high concentrations.
To learn more about air testing for mystery odors, landfill gases or for indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns, please visit, call (800)220-3675 or email

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