Per- and Polyfluoralkyl substances discovered: One airport’s case study on assessing and communicating this emerging issue

By Sammy Cummings
J. of Airport Man.
April 7, 2020

Lead paint was banned from household paints in the United States in the late 1970s, and asbestos production was phased out soon after with a ban implemented in 2003. In 2000, the primary US producer of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) announced that they would begin phasing these chemical compounds out of production. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the class of thousands of chemicals from which PFOS and PFOA derive, have been a subject of interest throughout many countries over the recent years. This paper outlines one airport’s assessment and response to PFAS, specifically PFOS and PFOA. It was immediately recognised that there was a potential to impact human health, and safety measures were swiftly implemented. With an emerging issue at hand and a department commitment to openness and transparency, professional help was called upon to assist the airport in navigating the challenging issues ahead. From response mobilisation and crisis communication, to on-site remediation, the discussion follows the author’s first-hand experience, in chronological order, in responding to the water contamination emanating from the airport’s fire training area and also impacting neighbouring properties.

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