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Rep. Salud Carbajal introduces legislation to help airports transition away from PFAS foams

Congressman Carbajal announced in a press conference that he is introducing two bills that would help airports phase out a PFAS foam used at airports across the U.S during aircraft fire emergencies.
Posted at 6:41 PM, Sep 06, 2023

Congressman Salud Carbajal announced in a press conference that he is introducing two bills that would help airports phase out PFAS firefighting foam. This builds on the ongoing clean-up efforts related to PFAS pollution coming from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

“Our airports were using these foams because the federal government told them to,” said Rep. Carbajal, (D) District 24. “The least we can do is help them transition away from them. ”

Back in July, a three-year voluntary clean-up agreement was ratified after an investigation found high levels of PFAS, chemicals that can be dangerous to humans, in wells near Buckley Road in San Luis Obispo.

“The county of San Luis Obispo, CAL FIRE, Water Board and airport staff have all worked diligently to deliver this voluntary setting agreement and address the critical water needs of the impacted residents within the area and within the PFAS-impacted wells,” explained Jane Gray, Chair of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
It's the first agreement of its kind in California to address PFAS pollution.

“We've done sediment and groundwater sampling around the airport. We're just at the beginning of the process, so there's going to be a lot more investigation and then it will lead into remediation,” added Chris Rose, an engineer with Roux and Associates. “Remedial technologies are still being developed because this is an emergent chemical group, so the treatment methods are being developed as we speak. ”

The question of possible reimbursements remains.

“It's still under consideration,” said Courtney Johnson, Director of Airports for San Luis Obispo County. “We have to reach out to all those homeowners and do some interviews and understand what costs they have incurred, but we are underway with that.”

On Wednesday, Congressman Carbajal released his Clean Airport Agenda.

“First, I'll be introducing the Pollution Free Aviation Site Act or PFAS Act for short,” Carbajal said. “This bill will create a new fund within the Department of Transportation to provide grants to airports to support them with replacing any PFAS foams they're using with chlorine-free alternatives.”

Each airport could receive a grant of up to $2 million, but that amount of money could change.

“It might not still be enough. Our trucks, we just procured one, it was about $1.4 million and we have two on hand at all times to meet our service requirement,” Johnson explained. “In addition to that, we're hearing an estimate about $350,000 from other airports to clean out equipment.”

The second bill focuses on transparency.

“The Save Our Airports Reporting Act, SOAR Act, which will require the Federal Aviation Administration to give regular periodic updates on their work, transitioning our airports away from PFAS,” Carbajal added.

“The Save Our Airports Reporting Act and the Pollution Free Aviation Sites would provide the critical support needed from the Federal Aviation Administration and the federal government to ensure long-term and sustainable health of our airport and our surrounding communities,” said Dawn Ortiz-Legg, San Luis Obispo County District 3 Supervisor. “The sooner we replace PFAS materials at the airport, the better for all.”

An alternative F-3 foam is still in the works.

“But once it is, this legislation can be really important for airports nationwide because we're going to be expected to transition into that form and we're not going to have necessarily the means to do so,” Johnson said.

Kathy Borland, one of the impacted residents living along Buckley Road, told KSBY News over the phone that she is tracking updates as they come along. She added that a community advisory group was formed last week to help relay information between officials and neighbors.

According to Rep. Carbajal’s office, the bills will be officially introduced to Congress on Friday.