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Water Science & Technology Vol 48 No 9 pp 103–111 © IWA Publishing 2003

Low temperature biodegradation of airport de-icing fluids

D.M. Revitt* and P. Worrall**

*Urban Pollution Research Centre, Middlesex University, Bounds Green Road, London N11 2NQ, UK (E-mail: m.revitt@mdx.ac.uk)
**Penny Anderson Associates, 60 Park Road, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6SN, UK (E-mail: Peter_Worrall@paa-ecol.demon.co.uk)


ABSTRACT
The biodegradabilities of glycol- and acetate-based aircraft de-icing fluids on airport surfaces have been investigated at three temperatures between 0°C and 10°C. The aqueous solubilities of these substances can result in high BOD loadings in runoff and pose serious toxicity problems in receiving waters. The measured surface biodegradation rates for de-icing products based on ethylene/diethylene glycol (Konsin), propylene glycol (Kilfrost) and potassium acetate (Clearway) at 4°C were 0.082, 0.073 and 0.033 day-1. The resulting reductions in the potential BOD loadings, of a single application of a typical mixture of these products, over a 5 day biodegradation period are predicted to be 32.9%, 30.2% and 21.4%, respectively at 8°C, 4°C and 1°C. For consecutive daily applications, the comparable cumulative reductions over 5 days are 20.8%, 18.9% and 13.3%. The subsequent savings in the amount of treatment required for airport runoff prior to safe discharge to receiving waters are discussed and hence the relevance of surface biodegradation processes to the design of stormwater treatment systems involving the wash-off of biodegradable pollutants following retention on urban surfaces.

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