As testing for PFAS on the Farmington River continues, a temporary plan is now in place to keep the potentially dangerous chemicals at Connecticut airports at bay.
“Theoretically we can only do that by getting a waiver to the state building codes,” Kevin Dillon, the executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority said.
Dillon told NBC Connecticut Investigates in an exclusive interview that the drains in several buildings with PFAS foam under the authority’s umbrella have now been closed.
A foam spill at Bradley International Airport last month prompted an advisory urging the public not to touch the foam or eat any fish from the river due to the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals. Those risks can range from cancer to reproductive challenges and kidney damage.
“In the interim to be proactive we have gotten a waiver from the state fire marshal to actually close the drains in these hangers that have PFAS foams and that’s a temporary measure,” Dillon said.
In the waiver request obtained by NBC Connecticut Investigates, the CAA asks the state fire marshal office to close the drains for three facilities for 90 days with the ability to request a time extension if needed.
While previous statements from the CAA state the airports are mandated by the FAA to use PFAS, Dillon said that that only applies to firefighting trucks and not the hangars.
“The hangers are not required to utilize PFAS foam however they are under state of Connecticut building codes required to have foam systems,” Dillon said.
So why not use firefighting foam alternatives in hangars? Dillion says more direction is needed from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the EPA.
“There are foams that do not contain PFAS however we’ve been researching some of those foams and in some cases it’s our opinion that non-PFAS foams could actually be worse for the environment than the PFAS foam,” Dillon said.
NBC Connecticut Investigates also learned in an internal email sent to Dillon and confirmed with MDC that the MDC plant the PFAS foam spilled into cannot process the foam and that MDC was not aware that the firefighting foam could be sent from the hangar to the treatment plant.
“The systems are not designed to break these down,” Penny Vlahos, associate professor of Marine Sciences at UCONN said.
Vlahos says CAA’s plan is on the right path to containing PFAS for now. Dillion said the long-term plan is to able to totally contain foam on the airport’s property and later be removed.
“They’re doing the right thing, they have to just guarantee to people that they are going to do everything in their power to contain and not release into public supplies,” Vlahos said.
Dillon says the CAA is working with an environmental consultant for its spill plans. It expects to get more guidance from the EPA on PFAS by the end of the year. Meanwhile, DEEP says testing on the Farmington River will continue for several more months.