WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of developing regulations that will address deicing practices at airports. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA establishes technology-based national regulations, termed "Effluent Guidelines," to reduce pollutant discharges from categories of industrial facilities that discharge to waters of the United States.

The guidelines are designed to provide uniform guidance for NPDES permit writers across the country. In doing this, they establish a baseline with which all airports must comply. The EPA is currently working with airports in collecting survey data and conducting detailed sampling programs. The current work will be used to identify the best available technology that is economically achievable for treatment of spent deicing liquids.

The Effluent Guidelines, coupled with NPDES Stormwater Permits and reduced capacities at sewage plants, will have a significant impact on cold-weather operations at airports. Environmental managers will be forced to be more aggressive in treating and properly disposing of spent deicing fluids.

A wide range of practices are currently used by airports for treatment and disposal of glycol and other deicing liquids that are used for anti-icing and deicing, while some airports have no program in place at all. The proposed EPA rule will effectively level the playing field by creating a national standard to which all airports must comply. The EPA plans to publish the proposed rule in December 2007, and take final action by September 2009.
contributed by Mark O. Liner, P.E., senior engineer
North American Wetland Engineering, LLC