Bulletin #49: Airports, Fire Training & ARFF Training Facilities
Christopher Higgins, a scientist who studies PFAS contamination at the Colorado School of Mines, said Pittsburgh and many of these other airports almost certainly do have contamination. ‘If they have their own fire training facility,’ he said, ‘it’s almost a guarantee they have their own plume emanating from that facility.’1
‘The way AFFF was handled at Pittsburgh’s airport is similar to how it’s handled at airports across the continent. A 2017 study by the National Science Foundation surveyed 167 airports in the United States and Canada between 2015 and 2016 and found that less than 7% of the airports treated AFFF during training like hazardous waste and less than 7% said they contained and cleaned up the AFFF after it was on the ground. And about four out of five airports said they left it on the ground to “dissipate” or “soaked in” or “diluted” it.’2
But, there really is no diluting of PFAS since these chemicals do not break down easily.
‘Unfortunately, the EPA has stated that PFAS are dangerous. They do not dilute, degrade, or disappear, and they pose significant human health risks as they travel through our groundwater and soil. According to the EPA, PFAS have been linked to adverse human health effects including: cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease and imbalance, immune disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and more. Because PFAS is negatively persistent, it can move through drinking water, soil, and even concrete, and has contaminated drinking water in cities across the United States.
‘The Department of Defense has confirmed that aqueous film forming foam is a major environmentally contaminating source of PFAS. PFAS that comes from AFFF is able to seep into the environment and groundwater and continues to contaminate anything in its path.’3
For more information on the Foam Exposure Committee, contact: Vicki Quint at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Former firefighters describe how they used foam with PFAS chemicals at Pittsburgh’s airport for decades, Aug 12 2019, www.ehn.org/former-firefighters-describe-how-they-used-foam-with-pfas-chemicals-at-pittsburghs-airport-for-decades-2639773950.html
3. Vanguard, Industrial Fire Protection, Everything You Need to Know About AFFF, Micah Dickinson, Jan 21, 2020, https://vanguard-fire.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-afff/