Chapter 13 - Environmental

13.1 Environmental Impact

A portion of the deicing fluid applied to the aircraft surfaces during deicing operations drains onto the apron surface and subsequently enters drainage runoff or percolates into subsurface soils.

Although some glycol has been found in the air and groundwater, the most significant environmental concern is associated with storm water discharges to surface waters. As glycol has a high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), the discharge of untreated runoff containing aircraft deicing fluids into receiving waters creates an unacceptable pollution problem and a potential hazard to aquatic life.

To ensure that airport effluent does not negatively impact the environment, a number of airports throughout Canada have implemented a program of sampling and analysing storm water. Water quality programs have also been established at Local Airport Authorities and Canadian Airport Authorities. Although existing environmental legislation does not specifically require water monitoring, federal, provincial, and municipal laws do specify water quality standards and guidelines to be followed by industry.

To ensure responsible environmental management of glycol based chemicals used in deicing operations the Air Operator, Service Provider and local Airport Authority shall prepare detailed glycol management plans and procedures.

The local or Environment Canada representative may be contacted for information on environmental issues and legislation as it applies to the deicing operation.

13.2 Environmental Standards and Guidelines

13.2.1 Canadian Environmental Protection Act Guidelines

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) a total glycol discharge limit of 100 mg/L has been established. This is the accepted level of glycol at the discharge point into any receiving waters or surface water resulting from aircraft deicing at airports. The guidelines are applicable to all airports that are owned or operated by the federal government or located on land that is owned by the federal government.

The purpose of these guidelines is to protect human health and the environment by providing a guide for containment and treatment of storm water runoff before it enters the ecosystems. The guidelines create an environmental performance criterion, which will assist in the design and implementation of appropriate infrastructure and operational changes for aircraft deicing activities.

13.2.2 Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME): Canadian Water Quality Guidelines

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has prepared water quality guidelines relevant to Canadian conditions. The present water quality guidelines for the three types of glycol are 3 mg/L ethylene glycol, 31 mg/L diethylene glycol, and 74 mg/L propylene glycol. These values are subject to change and the CCME Guidelines should be checked on a regular basis (at least annually) to ensure the current figures are being used.

13.2.3 Guidelines for Effluent Quality from Federal Establishments

Degradation of glycol in water is an oxygen depleting process and this process creates problems for aquatic life if large quantities of oxygen depleting substances, such as glycol and hydrocarbons, enter a natural water body. Watercourses can become oxygen deficient and unsuitable for aquatic life. In order to protect the aquatic environment from glycol degradation, the levels for the acceptable 5day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of storm water samples was set at 20 mg/L by the Guidelines for Effluent Quality and Wastewater Treatment at Federal Establishments, 1976. These guidelines apply to all effluents discharged for land-based establishments under the direct authority of the Federal Government.

13.2.4 Fisheries Act

The intent of the Fisheries Act is to protect the fisheries of Canada by prohibiting activities, which could either directly, or indirectly affect fish, fish habitat, or the use of fish. The sections of the Act, which could affect airport operations at any airport in Canada, deal with the destruction of fish passageways, the alteration of fish habitat (Section35) and the deposit of substances deleterious to fish (Section36). The Fisheries Act stipulates penalties and fines, which may be enacted for violators of the Act. This Act is far reaching and any violation, even minor violations can have serious consequences with the potential to immediately shut down operations.

13.3 Airports Water Quality Manual

The Transport Canada Airport Water Quality Manual, TP12233, January 1995, provides information concerning the variety of chemicals used for airport operations on a daily basis. Many of the common chemicals used at an airport can find their way into drainage systems and in particular storm water runoff can pick up deicing/anti-icing fluids applied to aircraft.

The Airport Water Quality Manual provides information on water quality legislation and guidelines, monitoring program establishment, sampling methods and equipment, data handling, and quality assurance/quality control, and best management practices. For further information on water quality refer to TP12233.

13.4 Reporting

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act Glycol Guidelines state that yearly reports containing the results from monitoring glycol must be prepared after each deicing season. The report must be available upon request on or before September30, following the end of the deicing season.

13.5 Effect of Deicing Fluids on the Environment

13.5.1 Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)

Organic chemicals such as deicing fluids can serve as food (substrate) for micro-organisms. When aerobic bacteria oxidize organic matter, oxygen is consumed during the process. The amount of oxygen required is proportional to the amount of organic material present. As long as oxygen is available, aerobic microbial decomposition of the organic matter will continue until the oxygen demand is satisfied. That is, it will continue until the aerobic microorganisms have oxidized all of the organic material they are capable of oxidizing. The amount of oxygen used during this process is defined as the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).

Even if the fluid is readily biodegradable, a large discharge of any biodegradable substances could result in the reduction or depletion of dissolved oxygen levels in the receiving waterway, with the resultant adverse effect on aquatic life. Generally, low winter temperatures and increased dilution from storm water flow during periods of deicing tend to minimize adverse effects on dissolved oxygen levels and aquatic life.

13.6 Collection and Disposal of Effluent from Deicing Operations

All runoff from deicing operations shall be contained, collected and disposed of in accordance with federal, provincial and municipal regulations and guidelines. It should be noted that laws and regulations governing disposal may change. It is the responsibility of the user to assure that disposal is appropriate and is in compliance with legal requirements.

13.7 Glycol Management Plan

The Airport Operator and Service Provider shall prepare a Glycol Management Plan. This plan will detail the deicing operation and the methods used to prevent environmental damage from the deicing operation. The Management plan shall be developed with input from the Airport Operator, the deicing Service Provider, the air carriers using the airport, and the companies or individuals responsible for disposal of the used deicing fluid. All parties involved in the preparation of the Glycol Management Plan shall sign the plans.

A typical Plan will, as a minimum, address the following issues:

  1. General Information on the companies that will be operating and using the deicing facility;
  2. Details of the area where the deicing operation will take place;
  3. Details on the storage and handling of deicing fluids;
  4. Application Details including operator training;
  5. How the effluent will be contained;
  6. How the effluent will be disposed;
  7. Contingency plans for spills and accidents;
  8. Safety Issues;
  9. Deicing fluid inventory control; and
  10. Reporting plan - for reporting Glycol use.

An Emergency Response Plan shall be developed and can be a stand-alone plan or included as part of the Glycol Management Plan. The Emergency Response Plan shall include procedures and plans to use all available resources to protect the environment in the event of an emergency, including spills, vehicle accidents involving deicing trucks, and a complete discharge of the largest holding tank at the facility.

13.8 Storage and Handling of Deicing Fluids

Deicing fluids shall be stored, handled and managed in accordance with the requirements detailed in the CCME Environmental Code of Practice for Above Ground and Underground Storage Tank Systems containing Petroleum and Allied petroleum Products (2003). In addition the storage, handling and management of the deicing fluids shall comply with all applicable Provincial and local codes.

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