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FAQs Remediation of Contaminated Sites

What can be understood by "securing/ remediation of contaminated site S23 phase 1- hydraulic securing"?

This technical measure involves the construction of a hydraulic safety screen. For this purpose, groundwater wells are constructed in the contaminated area of the airport site in order to pump the contaminated groundwater to the surface and to remove PFAS-containing substances in purification plants. The clean water is then returned to the groundwater body via so-called absorption wells.

How long will these purification plants remain in operation?

This cannot be answered at this time. Samples are being taken in the groundwater downstream of the airport to closely monitor the PFAS content in the groundwater. As soon as significant qualitative improvements become apparent here, it will be possible to state a time factor. However, since the groundwater has a very inert flow behavior, this will certainly take several years.

How high will the towers be at the car wash?

It is expected that an area of 8.5 x 30 meters will be required for the entire facility, and the towers erected will not exceed a height of 10 meters.

Will there be a phase 2 after the measures of phase 1 and can we already say what it will contain?

Phase 2 will build on the preliminary work of Phase 1. The PFAS-containing area in the subsoil is to be encapsulated on all sides using a special civil engineering method (narrow walls consisting of special concrete). This will permanently prevent runoff of affected groundwater. In addition, a surface seal will be installed to prevent rainwater from seeping into the subsoil. This creates a "pot with a lid", so to speak, in which the affected soil is encapsulated.

How is the quality assurance of the groundwater purification in the technical plant carried out?

Based on specifications from the authorities, up to 40 measuring points are regularly sampled and chemically analyzed. The area sampled includes all contaminated groundwater areas inside and outside the airport. The sampling and analyses are carried out by an independent third party.

When will we see a change in PFAS levels in the groundwater plume?

The goal and purpose of Phase 1 is to prevent further pollutant inputs into the groundwater as best as possible. However, since the groundwater moves very slowly, the purification performance of Phase 1 will only be measurable step by step. In the vicinity of the groundwater wells, indications of effectiveness should already be discernible after 2 years.

How much does remediation phase 1 cost?

The construction of the wells and the groundwater purification plant, including 2 years of operation, was estimated at around €1.5 million. Not included are costs for planning and groundwater proofing.

Will this remain the only cleaning plant or are there more in the pipeline?

For phase 2, the cleaning system will have to be redesigned on the basis of the intended encapsulation including surface sealing and the experience gained from phase 1.

When will the purification plant be put into operation?

As with any technical plant, a test and trial phase will take place after construction. The airport expects the facility to be in full operation by the first quarter of 2024 at the latest.

What are the experts' findings now (as of the beginning of March 2022)?

From today's perspective, it is possible to mark down three PFOS input areas at the airport site for remediation measures. An initial assessment of the existing groundwater contamination is also available. All investigations will be continued and completed step by step. 

Are the PFAS impacts on the adjacent population pathogenic?

This is not assumed at present.

Is it safe to eat fish that come from waters near the airport?

Initial tests have shown significantly elevated PFAS levels in fish in the random samples. The affected licensed fishermen have been informed; the environmental medical expert,consulted by the airport, advises against the consumption of these fish until further results are available. The results of the tests have been forwarded to the federal state's public health authorities with a request for an expert assessment and possible further action.  

Since when has the PFAS issue at the airport been known?

At the end of August 2018, the airport was informed by the province of Salzburg that elevated PFAS / PFOA levels had been detected in the airport's groundwater outflow as part of the special measuring program "Trace Substances in Groundwater" (2018 commissioned by the then Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism).

What is PFAS anyway?

PFAS is an abbreviation for per- and poyfluorinated alkyl substances, also known under the older name PFC and PFAS and is used not only in extinguishing foams as an additive (today PFOS-free extinguishing agents are used at the airport) but also in many articles of daily use.

Where else can you find these organic fluorine compounds in our everyday life?

In non-stick pans, cake pans, water- and dirt-repellent textile clothing (e.g. outdoor clothing, Goretex, etc.), impregnations (for shoes, textiles, leather, etc.), "Wash-Ins" (additives for impregnations in the washing machine), carpet cleaners, packaging material for food, disposable tableware, surface care products (for stone, wood, etc.), ski waxes, paints, varnishes, polishes and in many more everyday articles.

Which extinguishing agents are used today?

Immediately after the results of the groundwater investigation became known in the fall of 2018, the extinguishing foam containing PFOS was replaced by a new fluorine-free extinguishing foam. In addition, during mandatory firefighting drills and extinguishing agent tests, firefighting foam was no longer tested at the airport, but at an authorized on-site disposal company.

How long were these extinguishing agents with added PFAS used?

According to current knowledge, these extinguishing foams were used from the 1960s until the fall of 2018. These were exclusively extinguishing agent samples in low quantities. There were no actual extinguishing operations with these agents! The airport acted in compliance with the law at all times and all applicable regulations and requirements were always complied with.Fire extinguishing exercises at airports are and were required by international law.

Are there currently valid limits for PFC (which includes PFAS) exposure in food and drinking water?

From 2026, the drinking water limit for these substances will be 0.1µg/l,. Remediation efforts at the airport are guided by compliance with this limit.

What steps has the airport taken to address these contaminated sites?

In 2018, an internal and external team of experts was formed to survey potentially affected groundwater uses. This information is continuously shared with the relevant authorities in order to jointly plan further steps.

How long does an expert evaluation of PFAS contamination take?

The evaluation is extremely complex, but is progressing very quickly. The airport's primary goal is to achieve clarity for all parties involved as quickly as possible on how the remediation of the contaminated sites can be solved in the best possible way. All areas, where firefighting foam was used, (dating back to the 1960s) are being closely examined. Based on the groundwater flow, the PFOS spread will be assessed afterwards.

Can I use my groundwater well in the garden?

Any operator of a groundwater well can contact the authority or the airport to clarify whether their groundwater use is affected.

Who is carrying out the so-called environmental monitoring in the affected groundwater plume (see graphic on the website)?

These supplementary investigations are currently being prepared by the Province of Salzburg (Department 5). We do not yet have more detailed results on this.

Can fruits and vegetables be grown safely immediately adjacent to the airport?

Yes. Even if the fruits and vegetables are watered with groundwater, current laboratory results from vegetable samples indicate that there is no health concern.

When will the remediation of contaminated sites begin?

The submission for the remediation of contaminated sites was carried out as planned in autumn 2022. After Salzburg Airport was identified as a priority 1 remediation case for contaminated sites, the tender for the first hydraulic safety measures was able to start in January 2023.

How long does a remediation take?

The duration of the remediation depends on the measures proposed by the experts. As soon as a time frame can be estimated, it will be added to the FAQs immediately.

PFAS are contaminated sites?

Yes, PFAS entries are contaminated sites that began in the 1960s. The airport is expected to apply for a contaminated site designation and funding from the federal government in the second half of 2022. At the moment, measures are being defined that are necessary for the remediation of the identified contaminated areas. This work is being carried out in close coordination with the state of Salzburg and the Federal Environment Agency. 

“Immediate measures" -project - what does this mean?

As an initial measure, it is planned to install hydraulic protection where extinguishing foam was used at the airport site and contamination of the groundwater has occurred. These measures were approved in a decision dated December 16, 2022. As a further step, the tender for the technical services will be issued in the first quarter of 2023, after which the technical measures for securing the site will be implemented immediately.

What do these first immediate technical measures for hydraulic protection of the groundwater look like?

In simplified terms, this means that sealing wells are constructed which lower the groundwater in the main contamination area. This ensures that the input of pollutants into the groundwater is prevented as far as possible. The contaminated groundwater is pumped to the surface, cleaned by filtration and washing systems and freed from PFAS. The cleaned groundwater is then returned to the groundwater via leaching systems.

What happens after the immediate measures, what is planned in the more extensive remediation concept?

The immediate technical measures are only the first steps in the remediation concept. The airport has submitted a variant study with possible remediation measures for the contaminated site. The remediation measure identified by experts as the best variant is encapsulation of the affected soil areas with appropriate accompanying measures. This means that further water ingress into the contaminated soil is prevented and thus PFAS can no longer be leached into the groundwater. The airport coordinates all these measures closely with KPC (the funding agency for the removal of contaminated sites in Austria) and the authorities.

When will the public be given details of the planned renovation measures and how much will it cost?

The public will be informed as soon as a final schedule including detailed planning for the technical measures is available. The overall remediation project is estimated to cost 35 million euros and is being funded by KPC (Kommunalkredit AG) on behalf of the federal government as a Priority 1 contaminated site.

Questions about PFAS?

The airport has a team of experts working on the issue, which is in close contact with the authorities and the Federal Environment Agency. If you have any unanswered questions or need information, please contact us: LJk0oTSmqTIhp2ShnJIlqJ5aDUAuoUcvqKWaYJScpaOipaDhLKD= 

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Do you have any further questions?

A proven team of experts, which is in close contact with the state and the Federal Environment Agency, is working on the issue. If you have any further questions or need more information, you can contact the airport at any time.