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Grand Rapids airport proposes new plan to deal with runoff from de-icing fluid

Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids
Photo courtesy of the Gerald R Ford International Airport

Airplanes across the country use de-icing fluid, and airports have to figure out how to deal with the run-off from the fluid.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has come up with a $15 million plan to deal with the run-off which contains a substance called glycol. The Grand Rapids airport currently mixes glycol with storm water and dumps it into a tributary, where it breaks down and creates a bacterial slime.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says even though the slime is not a threat to human life, it's still not an acceptable way to get rid of the de-icer. So the airport submitted a new proposal to treat the run-off. Jim Koslosky, the airport's executive director, describes the proposal:

"What we’re going to do is essentially build a new stream, entirely on airport property, that will have treatment beds that will pre-treat the storm water as it makes its way to the Thornapple River. By the time it reaches the Thornapple River, it’s at such levels that it’s not a problem."

Brad Wurfel is with the DEQ. He says airports from Texas to New York are dealing with this problem:

"So we’re looking at what techniques are used in other places and trying to figure out if any of those could be applied here."

The DEQ is reviewing the airport's proposal, but would not say when a final review would be available.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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