Research Projects

The Emerging Threat of PFOS Contamination at Airports

Assigned to end@firstenvironment.com
Last Edited by Mike Salamone

Airports have for decades been managing and remediating contamination of soil and groundwater resulting from past practices. However, within the past two years airports have been surprised by a previously unrecognized environmental threat from a family of compounds found in firefighting foam known as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). A synthesis study to provide necessary education on the subject is proposed. It is suggested that it summarize the history of activities at airports – including those involving historic military operations – which have contributed to widespread PFOS contamination. The study will describe potential sources of PFOS, past airport practices leading to contamination, regulatory interest, and federal programs (such as those under the U.S. Department of Defense and Air National Guard) available to help airports deal with legacy sites. Deliverables would include a survey of airports currently dealing with these emerging contaminants and the steps they've taken to address the issue, as well as detailed case study examples such as the recent drinking water reservoir contamination occurring adjacent to Stewart International Airport. Airports will also benefit from an update on varying regulatory standards, including clean-up standards, health advisories, and safe drinking water limits at state and federal levels. The synthesis study would also look at the state of current treatment options. This information will assist airport management in assessing their potential risks and, if appropriate, developing strategies to identify and manage PFOS contamination on their properties.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Airports have for decades been managing and remediating contamination of soil and groundwater resulting from past practices. However, within the past two years airports have been surprised by a previously unrecognized environmental threat from a family of compounds found in firefighting foam known as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Airports are finding themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits, administrative orders, and notice letters bringing this issue to the forefront and making this a time critical issue. It's one that has prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue one of the lowest health advisory concentrations of any chemical, at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in drinking water; for some compounds in this family levels as low as 10 ppt are being considered. This chemical is especially prevalent at airports with historic joint military operations and use of firefighting foam, and has been found, in some cases to be associated with contamination of nearby drinking water reservoirs and private drinking water wells. Studies link the chemical to reproductive and developmental disorders as well as kidney and liver function impairments, even at very low concentrations. Its pervasiveness, significant health concerns, and extreme persistence in water and soil make this chemical a unique threat facing airports. It has rapidly become a growing concern of regulatory agencies, communities, and municipal entities. It is incumbent that airport management and environmental staff are educated in the risks and implications of PFOS contamination in order to anticipate potential risks.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

Airports have for decades been managing and remediating contamination of soil and groundwater resulting from past practices. However, within the past two years airports have been surprised by a previously unrecognized environmental threat from a family of compounds found in firefighting foam known as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). A synthesis study to provide necessary education on the subject is proposed. It is suggested that it summarize the history of activities at airports – including those involving historic military operations – which have contributed to widespread PFOS contamination. The study will describe potential sources of PFOS, past airport practices leading to contamination, regulatory interest, and federal programs (such as those under the U.S. Department of Defense and Air National Guard) available to help airports deal with legacy sites. Deliverables would include a survey of airports currently dealing with these emerging contaminants and the steps they've taken to address the issue, as well as detailed case study examples such as the recent drinking water reservoir contamination occurring adjacent to Stewart International Airport. Airports will also benefit from an update on varying regulatory standards, including clean-up standards, health advisories, and safe drinking water limits at state and federal levels. The synthesis study would also look at the state of current treatment options. This information will assist airport management in assessing their potential risks and, if appropriate, developing strategies to identify and manage PFOS contamination on their properties.

Voting

11 votes
11 up votes
0 down votes
Idea No. 123