Air District funding deep data analysis of mysterious odor in Milpitas

Thursday, November 21, 2019

MILPITAS, Calif. (KGO) -- A molecular-level study is going to be launched to pinpoint a mysterious odor that has fouled Milpitas neighborhoods for years. Despite past studies, it has been difficult to pinpoint the source or sources.

An international engineering firm is being hired at a cost of up to a half-million dollars to study who's creating the odors residents of Milpitas have been complaining about for years. The study will also look at the frequency and concentration of the odors.

Data will be collected at the boundaries of several suspected sources, including the Newby Island landfill and the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater treatment plant. Measurements will also be taken in various neighborhoods.

Residents say the odor is driving some people to move away, even though they like Milpitas.

"Most of people want to live here, but because of the smell, that's why they want to move from Milpitas, and they want to live in some nice place," said Milpitas resident Pratibha Patel.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is footing the bill for a forensic study that goes far beyond air monitors that are less sensitive than what humans can smell.

"We're looking at laboratory-grade instruments to detect what these chemical compositions are and then try to fingerprint them to the various facilities," said Wayne Kino, deputy air pollution control officer at the Air District.

Republic Services, which operates the Newby Island facility, said it has invested in odor control systems and plans to invest more to enhance them.

The City of San Jose, which operates the regional wastewater plant, says it's in compliance with Air District regulations and has $50 million budgeted for odor control technology.

Anyone looking for quick answers might be disappointed. That's because researchers want to study the air quality over a span of at least three seasons, so the answers won't be coming quickly.