Understanding offensive odour

Odour (or smell) is experienced when one or more chemical compounds in a gaseous form stimulate the sense of smell (the nose). Odours are also commonly called scents and can be pleasant (a fragrance or aroma) or unpleasant (a stink or stench).

Reactions to odours can be very subjective. A smell may be pleasant to one person and unpleasant to someone else. An offensive odour is one that affects the general life, health and wellbeing of an individual as a result of the intensity, character, frequency and duration of the odour.

For EPA to take action on offensive odour, it must be verified and sourced by an environment protection officer who is accredited to assess odour and take statements from the person(s) who has reported the pollution.

What can you do about odour?

If you experience an offensive odour of the type that EPA investigates, you can report it to EPA by calling our 24-hour pollution hotline on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).

When an odour report is received, EPA collects information from the odour reporter. This information helps us to identify the likely source of the odour, how the individual is being affected and the action EPA may take. To understand what EPA can to do investigate and act on offensive odour, read the Odour fact sheet (publication 1468).


Reporting odours to EPA

Sometimes an offensive odour may only exist for a short period of time, and it can be difficult for an EPA officer to verify your odour report. To assist us with investigations, it is important you report offensive odours to EPA as soon as you are aware of them. Delaying your call or sending a report via email will not provide EPA officers with the best chance of being able to verify your report.

When you make an odour report, information collected by EPA may include:

  • name and address of reporter
  • time of odour
  • location of the odour
  • character and strength of the odour
  • identity and location of alleged source
  • length of time of the impact and frequency if it has occurred before
  • the impact the odour is having on the reporter
  • wind direction and strength.

If you are regularly impacted by offensive odour, EPA recommends that you keep a diary to help remember the details of the incidents. This will help EPA should the offence reach prosecution, as we will need evidence of the frequency and nature of the odour. Contact your local EPA office to obtain an odour diary in which you can record the details.

Verification of odour reports

In some circumstances, EPA may ask individuals reporting offensive odour to sign sworn statements detailing the dates and precise times of the odour and why and how the offensiveness of the odour affects their wellbeing.

This is important information that enables EPA to relate the effect of the odour to the area of legislation under which EPA can take enforcement action for odour offences.

Page last updated on 23 Dec 2014