For 90-years the Kalamazoo / Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) has played an important part in serving the transportation needs of Southwest Michigan. We proudly complement economic growth and quality of life by safely, conveniently, and efficiently fulfilling the air travel needs of the region. In 2019, AZO served over 300,000 passengers as they visited our airport. In addition, we play a vital role in supporting the general aviation needs of area businesses and pilots. Despite the impact of the COVID pandemic on the airport and the region we are confident of the future growth of AZO.
Our success hinges not only on the people using AZO, but on our core values – Communication / Transparency / Customer Focus / Financial Stewardship. These values impact everything we do. With this in mind, the Airport proactively sought a grant from the State to test the soil and groundwater around the Airport for PFAS. (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). PFAS are a group of thousands of man-made chemical compounds that have been used since in the 1940s in a wide variety of consumer and commercial products, including certain federally required firefighting foams used around the world to help ensure the safety of the traveling public.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group manmade chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil. PFAS have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an emerging contaminant on the national landscape. For decades, they have been used in many industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, waterproof clothing, upholstery, food paper wrappings, personal care products, fire-fighting foams, and metal plating. They are still used today. PFAS have been found at low levels both in the environment and in blood samples of the general U.S. population.
These chemicals are persistent, which means they do not break down in the environment. They also bioaccumulate, meaning the amount builds up over time in the blood and organs. Studies in animals who were exposed to PFAS found links between the chemicals and increased cholesterol, changes in the body’s hormones and immune system, decreased fertility, and increased risk of certain cancers. Studies in which animals were given high levels of PFAS showed effects including low birth weight, delayed puberty onset, elevated cholesterol levels, and reduced immunologic responses to vaccination. Animal studies help scientists understand what could happen in people. (Source: Michigan PFAS Action Response Team Website)
As the nation comes to understand the uses and impacts of PFAS, so to does the Airport. The use of firefighting materials known as AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam, is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at all commercial airports across the country. Currently, all of the FAA-approved AFFF formulations contain some amount of PFAS that ensures that AFFF will extinguish petroleum-related fires quickly and prevent reignition.
Currently, the regulatory environment for PFAS is evolving with developments in ongoing research and regulatory guidance changing frequently. The Airport will remain vigilant to stay abreast of scientific and regulatory developments to facilitate appropriate investigation, mitigation, and potential remediation on and around the Airport.
The Airport, working with our partner agencies, will engage in further research to ascertain the breadth of PFAS impacts at the Airport. Stay tuned to this page as further work plans are created.
PFAS and its Impacts at Airports
The knowledge about PFAS is still relatively new and continues to evolve. While there is a lot to learn, Michigan is at the forefront of the conversation and Michigan’s airports are proactively working to determine the extent of the impact of federally mandated Class B firefighting foams. The effort continues to work toward gaining an understanding of the extent of the usage and the potential health effects from these chemicals, primarily through PFAS-impacted drinking water.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has long mandated that commercial service airports use Class B firefighting foams that contain PFAS, known as aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), due to their ability to extinguish petroleum-based fires quickly and effectively. State public-use air carrier airport licenses also require compliance with these federal requirements, which are applicable to all commercial service airports. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed its first-ever Lifetime Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS – EPA Health Advisories and EPA Fact Sheet. Congress has directed the FAA to research, test and ultimately approve AFFF formulations that do not contain PFAS by October 21, 2021. Until then, AZO must continue to comply with the FAA mandate to use AFFF containing PFAS until a fluorine-free foam (F3) is approved.
Michigan & PFAS Investigative Sites
There are approximately 150 sites in Michigan currently identified as PFAS investigative sites, including the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport and four other airports, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
The Airport values its collaborative approach working with federal, state and local groups, associations and entities in our efforts. Our work includes engagement with:
- Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department
- Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
- Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
- Michigan Department of Transportation – Office of Aeronautics
- Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) Kalamazoo Airport — note: This site is managed by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
Listed below are files related to the Airport PFAS Study:
- (1 March 2021) — Slide Show from Town Hall Meeting
- Airports Council International – North America – Executive Level PFAS Overview
- Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE): https://www.michigan.gov/egle/
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PFAS page: www.epa.gov/pfas
- Airport Cooperative Research Report 173: Published report
- Interstate Technology Regulatory Council: https://www.itrcweb.org/
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): https://www.faa.gov/