WHAT AIRPORT OPERATORS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PFAS

Airports can be a leading source of PFAS contamination in surrounding communities.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a diverse group of compounds resistant to heat, water, and oil. For decades, they have been used in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, apparel, upholstery, certain food paper wrappings, metal plating, and firefighting foams.


AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) is a significant source of PFAS contamination in and around airports. The two most concerning PFAS compounds found in AFFF are PFOA and PFOS. Since at least the 80s, research has found links between PFOS and PFOA and a number of health problems, such as: chronic kidney disease, thyroid issues, certain types of cancers, etc.

Pace Analytical PFOS molecule image

Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)

Pace Analytical PFOA image

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

THE PFAS PIPELINE

For decades, AFFF has been used by commercial airports and military bases to respond to fire emergencies and during training. AFFF can seep into the ground to contaminate soil and ground water. AFFF that enters the storm drainage system can lead to contamination of the public water supply when it is sent to the local water treatment plant. (Traditional water treatment processes do not remove PFAS.)

Since AFFF has a lengthy shelf life, many airport operators have built up stockpiles over the years. Consequently, PFAS contamination can also be due to improper handling of AFFF supplies, or a result of degraded storage systems. Remember, too, that PFAS doesn’t degrade naturally. Even if AFFF hasn’t been used for decades, the contamination can remain.

THE RACE IS ON FOR AN AFFF REPLACEMENT

The FAA has historically required that AFFF be used in fighting aviation fires. Despite claiming that fluorine-free foams do not provide the same level of fire suppression as AFFF, this mandate is to be phased out by October 4, 2021. In the meantime, Part 139 airports must continue to use AFFF for emergency response. They are also required to test their AFFF systems during regular maintenance. This testing involves the release of AFFF.

In 2019, the FAA began construction on a research facility specifically for developing a fluorine-free replacement to AFFF. At the same time, the DOD is doing research into fluorine-free fire-fighting foams as well.

WHY TEST NOW?

Even though airports are a common source of PFAS contamination, most states do not require airports to do routine testing. That’s beginning to change. For example, in 2019, California issued orders giving airports 60 days to develop a testing plan.

Organizations that specialize in environmental and personal injury litigation are also targeting airports. It remains to be seen whether the FAA’s requiring the use of AFFF will be an adequate defense. Some experts don’t think so.

Whether it’s to respond to new regulations or pending litigation, testing can help you be prepared.

REQUEST A BRIEFING

The latest research provides new insights into PFAS contamination and its effects on the environment and public health. Not surprisingly, the regulatory landscape is constantly shifting in response.

We’d be happy to schedule a personalized briefing for your team to bring you up-to-date on all the latest details affecting airport operations. Just give us a time and date that works for you.

REASONS TO CHOOSE PACE®

Pace Analytical PFAS Experienced Icon

EXPERIENCED

Pace® has been an industry leader in persistent organic pollutant testing for over three decades.
Pace Analytical PFAS Certified icon

CERTIFIED

We’re certified/accredited by NELAC, ISO, DOD, DOE, and in every state with a PFAS lab certification program.

Pace Analytical PFAS Reliable Icon

RELIABLE

For emergencies, our Rapid Response Team can provide defensible results in as little as 24 hours.

Committed

COMMITTED

We are committed to helping our customers advance their important work through building strong relationships, delivering upon expectations, and providing exceptional customer service.

Pace Analytical PFAS Advanced Icon

ADVANCED

We can test for PFAS in both solid and aqueous matrices, including potable and non-potable waters, soils, and biota.

Pace Analytical PFAS Innovative icon

INNOVATIVE

We’re on the leading edge of science, working with EPA, DOD, ASTM, and others to develop new methods for analyzing PFAS.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP