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    Whiteman AFB Remediates Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Spill

    CE Weekly Submission by Mr James Love //

    In September 2019, a defective valve on a firefighting tanker truck released 30 gallons of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) concentrate inside a fuel maintenance bay at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Personnel from the 509 CES Environmental Element (CEIE) and the 509 Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) quickly isolated the AFFF in the storage tanks connected to the building’s floor drains. The team’s timely action of turning off the lift station prevented the AFFF from entering the base water stream. However, by the time the bays were washed out, the 30 gallons of concentrate had become 10,000 gallons of contaminated water. While the 509 CEIE began exploring options to properly dispose of the contaminated water, the underground storage tanks were unknowingly infiltrated by the contaminants, which heightened the need for swift action.

    At around the same time as the spill, the “AFFF-Related Waste Management Implementation Guidance” (AFGM2019-32-01) document was released. This was the first AF/A4 publication that outlined AFFF contamination policies. According to the guidance, liquid waste cannot be discarded until an approved treatment method achieves contaminant concentrations less than those established in state standards or in the Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). Since Missouri has not yet promulgated relevant state guidelines, Whiteman AFB was required to treat the water to an AFFF concentration of less than 70 parts per trillion (ppt), which aligns with the EPA’s LHA guidance. “One of the chemical components in AFFF is PFOS/PFOA, which has been found to cause harm in humans if ingested,” said Glenn Golson, Environmental Element Chief. “With increased attention on the potential harmful effects of these chemicals,” Golson said, “AFCEC advised us to test and treat our water for PFOS/PFOA levels.”

    As a precautionary measure, the 509 CES Operations Flight moved the water from the storage tanks at the fuel maintenance bay to dead-end catch tanks at the base HAZMAT facility. The 509 CES consulted with its federal and state counterparts to identify reputable industrial water treatment solution providers, eventually selecting AVANTech, Inc. This company’s treatment process involves pumping contaminated water through a series of tanks, which contain a proprietary filtering media that removes any traces of PFOS/PFOA in the water via an ion exchange. Water is pumped at a slow rate through the filter tanks, maximizing the residence time and allowing for increased surface area contact between the filtering media and the contaminated water. “Essentially, we just continually filter the water until it’s tested and determined to be safe,” said Benjamin King, a technician at AVANTech, Inc. This strategy, King said, “is a cost-effective way to test and remove chemical constituents from the water.”

    AVANTech, Inc., arrived at Whiteman AFB with a slow-rate centrifuge pump and two upright fiberglass columns, which contained the proprietary filter media. The team used two 21,000 gallon temporary tanks to handle the effluent flow of the filtering system. To ensure the treatment’s efficacy, an initial test of suspended solids was visually inspected and sent to Pace Labs for a full analysis. This action was taken based on previous knowledge that filtering media can prove ineffective in water with high levels of suspended solids. Daily samples of the inlet and outlet water sources were also taken and analyzed for PFOS/PFOA contaminant levels. The entire filtration process lasted five days, from 31 Aug to 04 Sep 20.

    The team was eager to report that although this was Whiteman AFB’s first time utilizing this type of AFFF treatment, the decontamination process proved effective. On 22 Sep 20, results from AVANTech, Inc. confirmed all samples taken had tested below the requisite threshold of 70 ppt. Inlet PFOS samples ranged from 39,000-47,000 ppt, and were treated to outlet levels below 30 ppt. Inlet PFOA samples ranged from 600-700 ppt, but the treatment process reduced these levels to less than four ppt. Due to this successful treatment, Whiteman AFB was permitted to dispose of the water in accordance with its established procedures. AVANTech, Inc. concluded the process by incinerating the PFOS/PFOA-contaminated filter media.

    As a result of the Environmental Element’s determination and commitment to environmental stewardship, Whiteman AFB executed a $50,000 service contract with AVANTech, Inc. This partnership saved an additional $40,000 associated with the total cost of incinerating all contaminated water without any treatment. The treatment process not only reduced all chemical compound levels below federal thresholds, but also established a cost-effective way for Whiteman AFB to process AFFF liquid waste in the future.



    Date Taken: 12.21.2020
    Date Posted: 12.21.2020 09:27
    Story ID: 385448
    Location: US

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