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The airport at Roanoke is switching to firefighting foam PFAS-free



Roanoke, Virginia – Congress passed the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration in May. A grant program included in the bill will assist airports in transitioning to firefighting foams free of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

By the end of 2024, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport intends to switch to firefighting foam free of perfluorocarbons (PFAS).

“We quickly realized what was in front of us,” said Ben Cook, Director of Public Safety at the Roanoke airport. “We had to get rid of the old foam to get the new foam. There are properties of the old foam that are dangerous to the environment to health and things like, that so we knew we had to transition over and do that.”

Reducing the quantity of PFAS in the nearby waterways is the aim. For the Environmental Working Group (EWG), whose staff of scientists and policy specialists has been leading the push for more stringent regulations on hazardous permanent chemicals for years, the switch to firefighting foam free of PFAS is imperative.

“Firefighting foams made with PFAS has really been one of the main sources of water contamination from toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS, and science shows that even very small doses of PFAS has led to things like cancer and other health harms,” explained Jessica Hernandez, who is the Policy Director for EWG.

According to a news release, drinking water sources in the Roanoke River and Spring Hollow Reservoir were found to contain significant levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in 2023.
Locally eliminating PFAS from firefighting foam could contribute to a decrease in the persistent pollutants that find their way into our local rivers.

“Once it enters a storm drain or a ditch line, there’s really not a lot that you can do to control where it goes, where gravity sends it, and we can’t have that problem, so that’s a plus to get the new foam,” said Cook.

Cook believes that the airport will have to pay approximately $50,000 for this costly move, but he added that the new government funding will help with those expenses. By the end of the year, the airport intends to switch to one of the recently authorized foams available on the market.

Cook stated that because the new foam operates differently from the PFAS-containing foam, airport public safety personnel will require training.

If you’re seeking for strategies to reduce your exposure to long-term toxins, the EWG offers a number of useful resources.





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