Michigan Regulators OK Deicing Discharge Permit To GRR

The Department of Environmental Quality issued a first-of-its-kind discharge permit to Gerald R. Ford International Airport, concluding more than a year of review and public process to develop a system for the airport to safely deal with the deicing fluid it uses on planes each winter.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit addresses the seasonal issue of biofilm accumulation in Trout Creek, a tributary of the Thornapple River. The biofilms are unsightly and an indication that the airport’s historic efforts at managing and recycling de-icing fluids warranted further evaluation.

The airport’s existing permit was modified to address the problem. Airport officials have committed to construct an on-site treatment system for storm water and a new outfall to the Thornapple River by Oct. 1, 2015. This will be the first on-site treatment system for de-icing fluids at a Michigan airport. Regulators expect it will improve water quality in the Thornapple River and Plaster Creek watersheds.

Area residents and local officials shared their concerns about the issue during public meetings this year and through an extended public comment period. A permit condition was developed in response that requires the airport to report on the effectiveness of the new treatment system. The permit further requires additional pollutant sampling for two discharge events after the treatment system is operational.

A DEQ Web page will soon be available with regularly updated information for concerned residents and interested groups.