Colorado Aeronautical Board approves funding to minimize environmental impacts of toxic chemicals in firefighting foam at Colorado airports

September 9, 2019 - Statewide News

WATKINS - In an innovative and proactive move, the Colorado Aeronautical Board (CAB) has approved $400,000 in state aviation funding to assist Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified commercial service airports in Colorado with the acquisition of equipment to minimize the environmental impact of firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

This new statewide initiative, developed in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), comes amid an increasing environmental focus on the PFAS chemicals, as they have been found to pose pervasive challenges to drinking water supplies. Airports certified under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139 are currently required by federal regulations to use PFAS-based foam, and to annually test and certify aircraft rescue firefighting equipment by discharging foam from a firefighting vehicle into a container.  During this process, firefighting foam often comes in direct contact with the ground. Under the provisions of this new statewide aviation initiative, the Colorado Division of Aeronautics will provide funding of specialized testing and containment equipment designed to allow FAA-compliant firefighting foam testing to take place without the need for regular foam discharges.  

Colorado has 14 FAA-certified airports that are eligible to receive funding to acquire this equipment with the exception of Denver International Airport (DEN) which already uses similar equipment for firefighting foam discharge testing and training, and Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, where aircraft rescue and firefighting services are provided by the United States Air Force.

In developing this statewide aviation initiative, the Colorado Division of Aeronautics has established a strong partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to support CDPHE’s efforts in mitigating these chemicals statewide. 

“The Division looks forward to working closely with CDPHE and Colorado’s airports to proactively taking action where we can to be good stewards of our environment and Colorado’s local communities,” said Aeronautics Division Director David Ulane.  

“We are pleased that the Colorado Aeronautical Board will join with us in protecting the public from toxic chemicals found in some fire-fighting foams. Through the Board’s innovation, airports will be able to comply with federal law, keep their facilities and flight passengers safe, while also reducing serious negative long term environmental impacts,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Airports must be able to provide fire protection, while preventing Coloradoans’ drinking water from chemical contamination.”

This mission of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics is to support Colorado's multi-modal transportation system by advancing a safe, efficient, and effective statewide air and space system through collaboration, investment and advocacy.

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