15 million litres
of contaminated water have been treated
of total area was decontaminated using purpose-built method
One Monday evening, an aviation client reported that 22,000 litres of firefighting foam known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) escaped from a failed deluge system in an Australian airport. Between 66% and 75% of the released foam was captured by the concrete bunded system of the hangar, but the rest entered the drain system that feeds to several airport pump stations and the sewer. Following the incident, foam and dead fish were found in an airport’s storm water channel that flows to Boggy Creek and the Brisbane River. Government agencies and local community groups sounded the alarm and called for immediate action to address the contamination of the waterways.
PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that have a variety of uses in different industries. Despite their usefulness, they are known to persist in the environment and accumulate over time. The contamination of more than 15 million litres of water due to the spillage could have long lasting impacts on the environment and the health local communities. That is why Arcadis was engaged to develop a sustainable solution to contain the spillage, design a clean-up process and dispose the contaminated water.
Our initial investigations showed that we can’t rely on the usual clean-up methods because of time constraints and extent of contamination. The process of designing, building and commissioning a water treatment plan usually takes several months, but with the help of experts from our global offices we were able to shorten this period to five weeks. In addition, we collaborated with Evocra, our Tasmanian-based technology partner, to develop a proprietary method to remove PFAS that meets the most stringent discharge requirements set by regulators and relevant authorities.
Multiple teams had to work on-site 24 hours a day to prevent the contamination from spreading. We also implemented agile work methods to ensure that different phases of the process can happen concurrently without negatively affecting the success of the project.
Thanks to the immediate action of Australia’s government agencies and local community groups, the spillage incident was addressed before it caused irreversible damage to the people and the environment. The solution we implemented to contain, clean and dispose contaminated water allowed our client to reopen the sewer and resume normal operations of the facility.
The method developed with Evocra is one of the fastest PFAS treatment process that the Australian Restoration team has used to date. With the help of continued research and development on decontamination and remediation, this method can also be used to treat other PFAS impacted sites around the world in a more sustainable and efficient way.