Nelson Airport told to ditch toxic firefighting foam

  • 01/03/2018
Nelson Airport
Nelson Airport Photo credit: Getty

All airports should check their firefighting stocks and immediately phase out any foams that are non-compliant, the Environmental Protection Authority says.

The EPA has served a compliance notice on Nelson Airport, where a toxic foam banned from use in New Zealand has been found in fire trucks and storage tanks.

Samples from the airport tested positive for PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), which is harmful in the environment and may affect human health.

The airport has until March 16 to submit a plan to ensure that such foam is no longer used and will be disposed of safely.

EPA chief executive Dr Allan Freeth says that, in the course of its wider investigation, the authority believes others airports may have the same PFOS foams.

"Rather than wait for laboratory test results to confirm this, we strongly urge all airports to check their stocks," he said.

"If they do have non-compliant foam, they should take the initiative and begin planning to phase them out, and discuss their plans with the EPA as quickly as possible."

Other aviation or fuel-based facilities were encouraged to do the same.

"We understand this may take some time, given the need to source alternative foam, and clean fire trucks and other equipment," Dr Freeth said.

"But we would like to see immediate action, rather than waiting for a month or more for samples to be taken and laboratory results to become available."

PFOS has been used in firefighting foams since the 1960s, but was prohibited in New Zealand in 2006.