Q&A: Aircraft Deicing Management
What is aircraft deicing and why is environmental management needed?
Aircraft deicing is the process of removing snow, ice, and frost from aircraft surfaces before takeoff. The removal occurs by spraying an Aircraft Deicing Fluid (ADF)—typically a propylene glycol mixture—onto the surfaces. When the ADF is sprayed, excess fluid can enter stormwater catch basins flowing into nearby waterways. Mixing glycol into waterways has the potential to deplete oxygen in the receiving waterbody, which may harm fish and other aquatic organisms.
To mitigate these environmental impacts, the EPA requires airports to collect ADF-contaminated stormwater to prevent it from entering waterways. Langan has developed systems to collect ADF, monitor ADF recovery volumes, and verify regulatory compliance.
What does a typical deicing management system include?
Deicing Pad: The designated area for aircraft deicing, designed in accordance with airport operations and traffic control requirements; it provides separate drainage areas from the stormwater collection system to prevent runoff from entering nearby waterways or groundwater sources.
Collection Network: The system of catch basins, drains, piping, and relay stations that collect ADF and stormwater runoff from the deicing pad(s) and transport it to the designated storage system.
Storage: Typically large storage tanks and drainpipes used to store spent ADF and runoff collected during deicing events.
Monitoring System: Used to monitor the volume and quality of ADF and stormwater runoff collected, discharged, and exported, and confirm regulatory compliance.
What happens to spent ADF?
Recycling: It can be transported to a glycol recycling facility where fluid is processed and refined for reuse in a variety of commercial applications.
Treatment/Disposal: Collected fluid can be transported to a disposal facility for treatment.
Sanitary Sewer: Glycol can be consumed by microorganisms in a wastewater treatment plant’s (WWTP) biological treatment process to increase the population of microorganisms and improve the efficiency of the treatment process. However, the WWTP must monitor and control allowable discharge limits to avoid overwhelming with excess glycol.
Kale Novalis is a Project Engineer with 10 years of environmental experience working on a diverse range of projects involving airport construction and compliance. His experience in the aviation industry encompasses airport facility design, construction environmental management plans, and management of environmental programs including SPDES compliance, BMP implementation/training, and aircraft deicing management/design.