PFAS mitigation at Cape Cod Gateway Airport to be discussed Monday at public meeting
Cape Cod Times
August 6, 2023
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known generally as PFAS, have recently made their way into popular discussion. Nicknamed “forever chemicals,” due to their resilient nature and adverse impact on human and animal health, PFAS have also made their way into the ground and soil of Cape Cod Gateway Airport in Hyannis over the years.
Airport manager Katie Servis said PFAS at the airport primarily originates from fire extinguisher foams required for use by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Of course, we know that firefighting foams have PFAS in them,” Servis said. “And because they have PFAS in them, when they were sprayed on the ground in order to respond to an emergency, obviously, that PFAS got into the soil and into the groundwater.”
At an upcoming meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday at Barnstable Town Hall, officials from airport and Horsley Witten Group, an environmental consultancy firm, will inform the public about their recent PFAS mitigation efforts on and around airport property.
The consulting company will provide the town of Barnstable and other stakeholders with an update on progress being made in remediating PFAS contamination at the airport, the licensed site professional for Horsley Witten Group, Bryan Massa, said in an email.
The approach “implemented on the airport property to mitigate and stem the PFAS plume could serve as a model for communities on Cape Cod and beyond,” Massa said.
PFAS plume from airport identified
Servis said a PFAS plume has been identified as issuing from the airport, going toward the Maher Filtration Plant, which serves areas in Hyannis with fresh water — including Cape Cod Hospital, commercial business and hotels.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection said the airport has installed two “caps” — systems for wells that help separate pollutants from drinking water — to help mitigate the flow of PFAS from the two source areas on the airport property. One cap has been installed over the fire training area and one where the firefighting vehicles are stored.
The capping of the two soil source areas on the airport property has been shown to decrease concentrations of PFAS in the groundwater migrating out of the capped areas, the spokesperson said.
Since 2015, Servis said the airport has ceased to carry out the types of operations that were contributing to PFAS ground contamination.
“Obviously, in an emergency scenario, if we have to spray foam, we will spray foam,” she said.
Currently, the FAA has no alternatives in terms of PFAS-free solutions for fire retardants, Servis said, but they are actively seeking a way of solving this problem and hope to have something as early as October or November this year.
No legally enforceable limits for now
There are currently no legally enforceable limits for regulating PFAS in drinking water, despite the risks to human and animal health.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency covers two common types of PFAS — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, on the other hand, identifies six common types for their drinking water standard.
Cape Cod Gateway Airport is owned by the town of Barnstable and provides commercial and general aviation services to New York, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Along with charter aviation services, the airport is home to Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines as well as JetBlue.