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FAQs Remediation of Contaminated Sites

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.

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.  

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.

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?

Submission of the contaminated site remediation is scheduled for the fall of 2022. A gradual start to the remediation of the contaminated site is expected immediately thereafter.

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. 

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.