The Lindbergh Foundation Believes that Innovative Science and Technology Hold the Key to Addressing Humanity’s Environmental and Productivity Challenges

Dr. Mark T. Hernandez, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado

"Balancing the Preservation of our Natural Environment with Mandatory Aircraft Deicing Practices"

Category: Aviation/Aerospace: 1998

While the use of aircraft deicing fluids ensures safe flying operations in cold weather, this practice also generates millions of gallons of contaminated runoff and concentrated wastes each year. Storm water runoff, contaminated with aircraft deicing fluids (ADF), can deplete oxygen levels and threaten oxygen-dependent aquatic life in surface waters. Unless it is collected in the storm water system, deicing waste is discharged directly into the environment. Recent surveys have shown that less than 50% of ADF applied to aircraft is actually recovered and treated. Previous studies have shown that pure glycols are biodegradable and non-toxic; however, common additives to aircraft deicing fluids have been implicated in adding biological toxicity to deicing wastes. Negative impacts on waste water treatment facilities caused by raw ADF waste have cause utilities to begin enforcing strict discharge limits and fee assessments from airports. This is forcing airports and airbases to investigate alternative methods to manage ADF wastes. Results from this work will provide a realistic assessment for the potential on-site treatment of raw ADF wastes through anaerobic (bacterial) digestion and independent stabilization ponds and their visibility as a pre-treatment option for raw land application or discharge to a waste water treatment facility.

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