Remediation of Extinguishing Foam Residues
In the past, extinguishing agents produced contamination in the groundwater as an unwanted effect/ Comprehensive data collection creates basis for remediation of contaminated sites / To the best of our knowledge, the contamination known is not harmful for humans
As part of the special measuring program called "Trace Substances in Groundwater" from 2018 - commissioned by the then Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism - elevated PFAS values - these are organic fluorine compounds - were detected in the airport's groundwater outflow and brought to the attention of the airport. Salzburg Airport reacted promptly after the Ministry's measurement results became available.
First, a brief technical information: PFAS is an abbreviation for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, also known by the older name PFC.
In coordination with the authorities, the potential causes of PFAS contamination were identified in a first step. Extinguishing agents, used by the airport fire department, turned out to be a potential cause. As an immediate measure, the performance of extinguishing tests using these foam agents was immediately prohibited. A new extinguishing foam is now in use. In addition, the legally required extinguishing agent tests and firefighting exercises with the extinguishing foam are no longer carried out at the airport site.
According to current knowledge, the use of these PFAS-containing extinguishing foams began as early as the 1960s and lasted until the fall of 2018. This issue is not specific to Salzburg, because this type of extinguishing agent was and is used worldwide to fight special fires (fires of liquid substances such as gasoline, kerosene, heating oil, tar, alcohol, etc.). In Salzburg, moreover, the quantities of extinguishing foams used are very low, because these were exclusively used for legally required extinguishing exercises and not actual extinguishing operations.
Chairman of the Board, Christian Stöckl: Airport took proactive action
"As Chairman of the Supervisory Board, it is important for me to emphasize that only extinguishing agents that complied with all legal requirements were used at the airport at all times. This topic clearly shows that the state of scientific knowledge and the legal requirements continue to develop dynamically. What was state of the art a few years ago and legally required for safety reasons can lead to costly remediation work a few years later. I therefore expressly welcome the fact that the airport management has been proactive and worked closely with the relevant authorities to draw up a comprehensive picture of the situation, has spoken to all those affected - known to us to date - and is now already starting to implement the remediation of these contaminated sites," says Deputy Stat Governor Christian Stöckl. The Supervisory Board has therefore today taken note of and approved the procedure proposed by the company management.
Why is remediation necessary now?
"The current measures are being taken because the European Union is making new limit values for these substances mandatory and because the airport will comply with all legal requirements and is therefore taking precautionary action. The aim is to find the best possible remediation solution for the environment, people and nature.
The measures are based on the drinking water limit value for the sum of PFAS of 0.10 μg/l, which will apply in the member states from January 2026 due to EU requirements," explains Rudolf Lipold, who, as former deputy director of the airport, is in charge of this special project as an expert.
Salzburg Airport is cooperating with the Federal Environment Agency's contaminated site experts and the state's official experts in preparing the cleanup. The airport is supported by renowned experts, such as Mull und Partner Umwelttechnik GmbH, as well as the Salzburg companies GWU (Geologie-Wasser-Umwelt GmbH) and Hydrologische Untersuchungsstelle Salzburg. The submission for remediation of contaminated sites is planned for fall 2022, with a gradual start of remediation work expected immediately thereafter.
No problematic groundwater uses identified from a health perspective
All affected residents, of whom the airport or the authorities are aware on the basis of the data currently available, have been contacted personally, as already mentioned. From the current expert point of view, there are no problematic uses of the affected groundwater "In order to depict the distribution of the substances and a possible impact on the population, extensive series of measurements have been carried out to date as part of the remediation of contaminated sites. These include groundwater, soil and also food products such as vegetables and fruits. It is essential that a relevant use of the groundwater as drinking water could be practically excluded on the basis of the investigations carried out so far. From the point of view of environmental medicine, the PFAS intake quantities, resulting from the measurement results, including food products, lie in a concentration range which, even in the case of long-term intake, does not result in any tangible health effects," says medical specialist Professor DI Dr. Hans-Peter Hutter.
All information on this subject will of course be shared with the public. A first event for interested members of the public will take place on March 28th 2022in the airport restaurant. Residents can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions at any time; the most important questions & answers can be found on the Salzburg Airport website www.salzburg-airport.com . All inquiries will be answered individually by the team of experts.