T.F. Green Airport is just one of four airports in the country that has installed anaerobic fluidized bed reactor (AFBR) technology as a means for collecting deicing fluid.
The other three airports (above slideshow) are: Albany Airport (ALB), Akron–Canton Airport (CAK) and Portland International Airport (PDX).
According to the ACRP Fact Sheet, AFBR technology:
"The process uses anaerobic bacteria—bacteria that do not use oxygen—to convert the deicer compounds into methane and other by-products. Since deicing-affected stormwater is typically nutrient deficient, addition of nutrients is required to maintain the biological pro- cess. Anaerobic bacteria typically used in this process grow best at a temperature of approximately 85°F to 90°F; therefore, the water must be heated to achieve the correct conditions for treatment. In the AFBR process, the methane by-product is captured and used to heat the water to the required temperature."
Note: From 2006 through 2010, RIAC's average collection efficiency was 35%, achieving 43% collection efficiency in 2010.
According to the EPA:
Airports that have greater than 1,000 annual jet departures and >= 10,000 annual departures are required to:
1. Capture 60% of available ADF(airport deicing effluent)
2. Treat wastewater to meet effluent limit for chemical oxygen demand (COD).
3. Certify use of non-urea-based pavement deic- ers or meet effluent limit for ammonia.
4. Treat wastewater to meet effluent limit for chemical oxygen demand (COD).
During T.F. Green Airport's 2014-2015 deicing season, approximately 2,400,000 gallons of fluid was collected. Requiring only a 60% deicing capture rate, that would equal roughly 960,000 gallons of deicing fluid still running right into our storm drains, streams and ponds.
In addition to the elimination of hundreds of trees that were removed for airport expansion that acted as natural pollutant buffer zones, the nine newly relocated Winslow ballfields were hyroseeded multiple times due to inadequate watering which initially failed to allow grass seeding to properly germinate. Several additional bush plantings also perished due to improper watering.
Then, last summer, Warwick Pond was overrun with cyanobacteria toxins otherwise known as "blue-green algae" which resulted in the pond becoming a major health hazard and off limits (Aug-Nov) to homeowners, boat owners and pets.
When the health advisory was lifted by DEM, Elizabeth Scott, Deputy Chief of DEM’S Office of Water Resources, reassured the public in an email that all RIAC’s “RI Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit” is being closely managed and that DEM monitors the airport’s compliance to quality control and testing regulations.
What made Warwick Pond so toxic? Was it the remaining 57-65% of deicing glycol pollutants not being collected? Was it the excessive hydroseeding and pesticide application to the new ballfields? Geese and pet feces? Homeowner pesticide use? What will happen this summer season?
Many homeowners surround Warwick and Gorton Ponds. What fate is in store for them all this summer and fall and seasons to come? Will our environment ever recover from the effects of habitat degradation in the name of economic development? Time will tell, it always does.