Fairbanks International Airport receives award for PFAS mitigation

The Fairbanks international airport has been named as a recipient of a national 2022 environmental achievement award.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 6:11 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) has been named as a recipient of the ACI-NA 2022 environmental achievement award.

FAI received the honor for their work with polyfluorinated substances or PFAS. The airport is one of five recipients of the environmental award in the mitigation category. FAI has been working in coordination with the department of transportation to find ways reduce the impacts of PFAS exposure caused by the use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF).

“The Department of Transportation (DOT) has been conducting PFAS investigations since 2017 and the first airport that we began with was at Fairbanks International Airport,” said Sammy Cummings, the PFAS Program Coordinator for the Division of Statewide Aviation, which is part of the DOT. Cummings explained that the framework used in response to the investigation was then used to create the framework for PFAS response at all airports around the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAS exposure can cause multiple health problem for humans including cancer. However, the Federal Aviation Administration requires all airports that service part 139 aircraft, which are aircraft with more than 30 seats, carry and use PFAS-containing fire suppressants.

PFAS-containing suppressants have been in use for decades and are in widespread use due to regulations. This means that FAI and other airports in Alaska are not alone in the need to deal with these chemicals.

While the mitigation efforts are important, Angie Spear, the director of FAI said it was difficult for the airport and the DOT to develop their mitigation program because there is a lack of funding resources for airports to combat PFAS exposure. Spear said that originally FAI was part of only a small group of airports facing these issues, but now hundred of airports are needing to implement mitigation strategies.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated at the time that we started using AFFF that it would have this impact on human health,” Spear said. “We need to get a better plan moving forward because environmental remediation is very expensive and very time consuming.”