ST. LOUIS – Airports around the country are looking to Washington, D.C. to see if Congress will regulate per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are chemicals used in firefighting foam.
"St. Louis Lambert International Airport, like many other U.S. airports, is monitoring the debate over pending legislation related to the specific firefighting foam that is required for use by regulations set out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)," Jeff Lea, the public information manager for St. Louis Lambert International Airport, said in a recent interview. "The airport will wait to see the outcome of this legislation to comment on any impact."
Airports are required to use PFAS in their foam, but some progressive lawmakers want the chemical to be deemed hazardous under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), according to a recent Legal Newsline report.
In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its list of toxic substances and add PFAS to it.
PFAS is in many everyday items, such as nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing.
Lea said airports voiced their concern with the legislation, which awaits action in the Senate, in July via a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
American Association of Airport Executives Todd Hauptl wrote in the letter that if the measure were approved, the proposal could lead to extensive and costly litigation and cleanup efforts at airports across the country which are required to have this firefighting foam in place, and that no alternatives are available.
"Airports are eager to utilize alternative firefighting foam free from PFAS and were gratified by the inclusion in recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation requiring the approval of PFAS- free alternatives within three years," Hauptl wrote. "We have strongly encouraged the FAA to pursue the approval of alternatives as quickly as possible."
But, Hauptl wrote that airports have no choice but to comply with regulations that require PFAS to be used in the foam.
"At a minimum, we urge you to alter the amendment to specifically exempt airports from any liability under CERCLA for the costs of responding to or damages resulting from the use of per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances that may occur from the use of aqueous film-forming foam required under current federal regulations," he wrote.