Folks in Louisville and beyond can now take advantage of an app for reporting odors in the neighborhoods where they live and frequent.
The Smell MyCity app had its local unveiling last week and can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
The technology provides a way for the public in Louisville — or anywhere in the United States — to make a “smell report” to help track air pollution and uncover its potential sources. The reports show up on a Smell MyCity map as color-coded triangles.
“It’s a great community learning activity because we can learn together where there are things that might be of serious concern and where there might be things that are simply annoying,” said Ted Smith, deputy director of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville. “… I think there’s some value in seeing where the hot spots are” and deciding as a community “what we might all work on together.”
The data that’s collected can be downloaded from a companion website at smellmycity.org. Also, you can go back in time and look on a particular date and see what people were reporting and where, Smith said.
The app is a joint project of the Carnegie Mellon University Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab — also known as the CREATE Lab — and the Seventh Generation household products company.
Local partners include the West Jefferson County Community Task Force, Rubbertown Emergency ACTion (REACT) and the Envirome Institute, which plans to set up a community data portal so that members of the community can be stewards of the data.
“We’ll be looking at the odor reports over time and whether they correlate with health data that we have on the community,” Smith added. “That’s something that’s a brand new dimension to this work — looking for associations between clusters of odor reporting and certain kinds of health outcomes.”
The Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District (APCD) will receive copies of odor reports to the app, and some environmental activists and educators in the community are encouraging the public to take advantage of the technology.
“It’s important because it allows an easy and convenient way for people to advocate on behalf of their families and communities,” said Eboni Cochran, co-director of REACT, which does advocacy work on behalf of residents and others near the Rubbertown industrial area.
“I think it’s a good way of somewhat exposing the impacts that industry has on communities,” she said, stressing the need for effective investigations and strong enforcement against wayward companies. “If the Air Pollution Control District does its part effectively, this could also lead to changes in behavior by the chemical facilities, which could ultimately lead to a reduction in our exposure to these chemicals.”
Thomas Nord, a spokesman for APCD, said the app will generate automatic emails to the agency, and “we can send somebody out and investigate.”
Furthermore, people still have the option to report odors to the agency by calling 502-574-6000.
“Any way we can get information, we’ll be happy to take it,” Nord said. “Any time, 24 hours a day, you can call us.”
The description of the community data portal that UofL plans to create has been updated in this story.