Fluoride Action Network

Thunder Bay: Dangerous chemicals contained, says airport president

Source: Thunder Bay News | September 18th, 2012 | By Leith Dunick
Location: Canada, Ontario
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

The president and CEO of Thunder Bay International Airports Authority says dangerous chemical once used as a fire retardant has been contained on airport property.

Scott McFadden said perfluorooctane sulfonate hasn’t been used since the TBIAA took over management of the facility in 1997. However, the chemical, also known as PFOS, was once used by firefighters training at a since closed site on the northwest corner of the airport property.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, the toxic chemical was used at more than 30 airports and military sites across Canada and high levels have been found in animals and fish downstream of the southern Ontario city’s airport.

The chemical was banned in Canada in 2008.

“We do have an area on the field, at the site of the old firefighter training area, where this substance has been identified. It has since been contained and is being monitored. Ultimately Transport Canada will have to decide how they’re going to remediate this situation,” McFadden said.

In Hamilton, clean-up costs are estimated in the $3-million range, with the federal government repeatedly refusing to cover the cost.

McFadden isn’t sure what the cost will be to remediate the Thunder Bay site, but he plans to ask Transport Canada to cover any costs.

It came as a bit of a surprise, he said.

“It’s only really recently been identified as an undesirable and there are no provincial or federal regulations or guidelines for what levels of contamination would be considered acceptable,” McFadden said.

“I think the key thing is the area is contained. And we’re continuing to monitor it to ensure it doesn’t become uncontained,” he said, adding the remediation at the old Neebing landfill site was to cap it with a clay cap to prevent percolation.

“I don’t know what the ultimate solution will be yet, but right now it’s not a threat.”

McFadden said the chemical hasn’t been used at the current firefighting training site located elsewhere on airport lands, noting a membrane has also been installed to ensure any chemicals that are used are unable to leech into surrounding soil or water tables.

As a precaution, airport officials have also gone through inventory of remaining firefighting foam to ensure none contain PFOS.