ADF Treatment System: Buffalo Niagara Int'l

Airports have collectively expressed concern over the “undue financial burden” that will be placed on them to comply with EPA’s airport deicing regulation. However, some airports, like Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BNIA) are finding that on site treatment of aircraft deicing fluid (ADF) saves money. “In the last year, the treatment system saved the airport $500,000 in operations cost,” says Kim Minkel, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).

With over eight feet of snow on average and 110 daily flights, BNIA is required to treat stormwater prior to discharge to adjacent Cayuga Creek.

To reduce sewerage costs and meet stormwater discharge limits, BNIA selected an onsite treatment option for management of spent ADF. The system had to be low profile and fit within the airside of the airport. It also needed to be capable of handling seasonal fluctuations, be designed for low operation and maintenance, and be integrated into the existing stormwater management system.

The airport constructed a $10 million onsite treatment system in 2008-2009 that includes underground “engineered wetlands” as an essential component. A key criterion for the system was for it to be built adjacent to the edge of the object-free area, 400 feet from the centerline of the runway.

The contaminated stormwater is distributed into beds specifically designed to operate beneath the surface with no standing water or other bird attractants. The project is at grade with no above ground structures that could present an airside hazard. The patented Forced Bed Aeration system supplies air uniformly over the floor of the beds which promotes biological degradation of glycol and other contaminants in the water.

The treatment system started operations in 2009 and recent performance data shows 90 percent removal rates over the past 2010-2011 deicing season. Far from being a burden, financial or otherwise, BNIA provides a case study on how some airports are intelligently managing spent ADF.

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Mark Liner is a senior engineer with Naturally Wallace Consulting. Liner specializes in the design of on site treatment systems for industrial facilities with an emphasis on airport deicing. He can be reached at