Evaluating the sensory and health impacts of exposure to sewer overflows on urban population

Ehsan Aghdam, Saeed Reza Mohandes, Tarek Zayed

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Sewer overflow contains several hazardous contaminants causing adverse health effects and annoyance to the public. Despite this importance, few studies has hitherto been undertaken on examining the odor nuisance and risk of diseases due to contact with untreated overflow. However, quantitative investigation of odor emission from the sanitary sewage overflows has not been addressed. As such, this study aims to scrupulously investigate the deleterious impact of such phenomenon on public health in terms of the aforesaid matters. To this end, a multi-stage methodological approach was employed. Firstly, field data was collected from the vicinity of a wastewater treatment plant for three years, and then the concentrations of H2S in the aqueous phase and gaseous phase were estimated based on the environmental parameters. Afterward, the Gaussian aerial dispersion model and Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) were employed. In parallel, the impact of the exposure to the malodorous H2S emitted from overflow cases was assessed. Furthermore, the results obtained from impact assessment were validated using the developed questionnaire survey. From the results obtained, the following major conclusions are drawn: (1) levels of H2S(g) near the overflow were high enough to be perceived by individuals, (2) concentrations of NH3(g) in the ambient air were estimated lower than the perception threshold, (3) the sulfide concentration in the overflow was the most influential parameter with positive linear correlation with the concentration of H2S(g), (4) the concentration of odor causes high annoyance, according to the questioning from the residents near the overflow events (5) exponential dose-response indicated 89–95% infection risk and (6) the good correlation between the estimated values of annoyance and the real annoyance level perceived by the residents proved accuracy of the methodology for estimation of H2S concentration and annoyance level. The unique findings obtained from this study guide the environmental decision-makers to take pre-emptive actions, preventing risk of infection and complaints from the residents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137498
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2023


  • E.coli
  • Gaussian dispersion model
  • Impact assessment
  • Odor emission
  • QMRA
  • Sanitary sewer overflow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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