Almost a decade after an airport accident which contaminated Guernsey’s water supply, the Public Services Department wants to permanently solve the problem.
As part of the airport runway redevelopment, they are planning to put in a plant to treat any affected water.
It will mean Guernsey Water no longer has to constantly check the reservoir for the chemical PFOS.
The proposed scheme is part of new drainage and pollution control measures to take place at the airport.
Public Services say the plant would help prevent a chemical previously used in fire fighting from entering the local water supply.
In November 2002 an accident brought Guernsey Airport to a standstill when a fire truck overturned on the runway. It spilt fire fighting chemicals known as PFOS – which entered the island’s water system and contaminated soil at the airport.
Unlike many chemicals, PFOS takes a very long time to break down so it is still causing problems.
Although a replacement for the chemical was found a few years ago so it is no longer used by the airport’s firefighters, its effects are still being felt. Here at St Saviours Reservoir, Guernsey Water has to monitor levels of PFOS in the water and make sure that they stay within strict limits set out by the UK’s Drinking Water Inspectorate.
Now, Guernsey Airport is hoping to permanently solve the problem with a new groundwater plant. It will be part of the £80 million airport pavements project they are planning to start later this year.
The plan is to remove soil from the main areas of contamination and then treat surface and ground water on site. Guernsey Water says that system will be better for everyone.
Andrew Redhead, from Guernsey Water, said: “We’re working closely with them (the airport) to make sure that there are no pollutants that come off the airport or indeed any other industrial site. We must make sure that the streams are maintained at levels which can be used by everybody, not just the public drinking water supply – but bear in mind that there are farmers and probably other private borehole users down the valley so it’s important that the treatment is actually at the source as we call it, namely at the airport.”
The new plant will mean water feeding in to the reservoir will be uncontaminated. But that comes at a cost. In 2005, Jersey received more than £2.5 million in compensation for damage from PFOS, but Guernsey still does not know if anyone else will pay to fix this problem.
If given planning permission, work at the airport will take place before the main phase of construction work on the airport runway, which is due to begin later this year.