He`s paid to think about stinks


Courtesy of Bowker & Associates, Inc.

Odor-control expert tackles Hall St. plant

The world's best job, I've long imagined, is testing fresh ice cream concoctions at the Ben & Jerry's plant in Water-bury, Vt Or closer to my line of work, I bet wine tasting for a weekly column would be  extremely pleasant ('Humm, that '89 Beaujolais has a strik ingly ruddy complex ion with a tawdry un¬dertow.')

At the other end of the spectrum is Robert Bowker's job.

Bowker is a stink consultant. Execuse me, odor contrl specialist.

He visits sewage treatment plants throughout the world and recommends ways to relieve the stench. Yesterday, today and tomorrow he's visiting Concord's Hall Street plant.

Now you might imagine he visits plants clad in some high-tech moon suit, armed with a phaser in one hand and scentometer (a real thing, by the way) in othe ohter.

That's partially right. The stink sensing industry has made tremendous technological leaps the last few years, says Bowker, and he comes equipped with quite a few gadgets.

But it's the human nose - specifically Bowker's nose - that is the cornerstone of his investigations. Machines can analyze the chemical content of noxious gases, but they can't say what stnells, how much it smells, or what is smells like.

That's Bowker's specialty, and he's one of only a handful of odor control engineers in the nation.

Bowker grew up in Maine and went to college at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. In 1972, he got a civil engineering degree there, and two years later, he earned a master's degree in environmental engineering from Cornell University.

He became involved with odor control when he worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1976 to 1983, and he co-authored an EPA manual on sewage odor control as a private consultant.

That work certified Bowker as an expan he's been working directly with local governments and their odor problems since.

The smell can get had, he says- Woonsocket, R.L. Indianapolis and Singapore were the worst of the 100 or so he's smelled - but Bowker dosen't regret his carrer path. 'At least here, I could be doing something that is benefiting poeple.'

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