EPA unveils new de-icing regulations; controversy looms

January 27, 2010
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New guidelines proposed by the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding how planes are deiced at the nation’s major airports and how de-icing fluid is collected and treated is shaping up to be the next fight between Massport and environmental activists in East Boston.

Under the EPA’s proposed regulations, Logan and five other of the nation’s 14 major airports that are the biggest users of de-icing fluid would have to install costly equipment known as de-icing “pads” or other collection systems to contain 60 percent of the fluid that is sprayed during de-icing.

Currently Logan de-ices only 20 percent of aircraft at these “off gate” de-icing pads. The other 80 percent are de-iced right at Logan’s gate terminals throughout the airport. The EPA wants 100 percent of planes de-iced on pads so the fluid spray (at least 60 percent) can be collected and then treated in order to remove any toxins from the chemicals before it is pumped into the Boston Harbor and waterways bordering East Boston.

Currently, none of chemicals at Logan are treated before they enter the water.

The EPA argues the new rules would reduce the discharge of chemicals, which lower oxygen levels in waterways and prevent fish and other aquatic creatures from breathing, by 22 percent.

However, Massport is already looking at ways to get around the regulation if these measures do in fact go into effect after the February 22 Public Comment Period ends.

The Port Authority has hired consultants to argue that Logan is unique as an urban-based international airport. Massport said having to install de-icing pads and treatment equipment may not be feasible given the airport’s land constraints and the high cost of the modifications.

A Massport spokesman also said the Port Authority already conducted a water study and found that chemicals caused little, if any, environmental impacts on the water surrounding Logan.

However, not everyone is convinced.

“While I know that the EPA is promulgating new regulations for de-icing effluents, I see no reason why Massport, in its claims that they are being so “green” oriented, will not embrace the mechanisms now to prevent chemicals from entering the Harbor,” said local Environmental Activist Gail Miller. “We should flex our political muscle to demand that they put in motion the changes now to have the airport “catch” these effluents before entering the Harbor. It’s fine that Massport says they are not in violation of any regulations, however, it shows their lack of commitment to our environmental resources if they do not embrace the new changes once they come.

With all the moneys spent to clean the Harbor, it seems that allowing deicing chemicals to enter the Harbor flies in the face of all the remediation that has gone on thus far.”

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