The Jackson Hole Airport is committed to the safety and health of our passengers, staff, and surrounding community. The Airport has therefore taken voluntary measures to investigate the potential for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to be found in groundwater on and adjacent to Airport property. PFAS has not been classified as a hazardous or toxic substance, or as a carcinogen, by any Federal or State agency. However, some studies have linked PFAS exposure to health impacts, and caution is advised.

Background

PFAS, a family of over 5,000 chemicals, is found in a wide range of every-day products such as non-stick pans, microwave popcorn bags, water repellant fabrics and applications, pizza boxes, and even some brands of dental floss. PFAS is also found in high-performance fire-fighting foams. As a certificated air carrier airport, the Jackson Hole Airport is required by the FAA to use Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which contains PFAS, as a fire extinguishing agent for aircraft fire emergencies.

AFFF was developed in the late-1960s as an extinguishing agent for flammable liquid fires such as those caused by jet fuel. AFFF has a unique ability to form a layer of aqueous film over burning fuel to extinguish the fire and prevent reignition. This ability is dependent upon PFAS foaming agents, which do not easily break down when exposed to extreme heat. The FAA has ordered certificated airports supporting air carrier operations, such as the Jackson Hole Airport, to use AFFF that meets the stringent United States military specification MIL-F-24385F for aircraft fire emergencies. AFFF must contain PFAS to meet the current MIL-F-24385F specification.

Regulatory Environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a lifetime health advisory of 70 ppt (parts per trillion) for PFOA and PFOS (two compounds in PFAS) in drinking water based on the agency’s assessment of the latest peer-reviewed science.  Although the health advisory is non-enforceable and non-regulatory, it provides the best currently available reference value for state agencies and other public health officials in evaluating PFAS concentrations in drinking water.

The following explanations may help you understand the terminology and science behind the health advisory.

-What is a lifetime exposure? A lifetime health advisory is derived for an adult (> 21 years old or a 176-lb adult), and assumes daily exposure over a period of an average lifetime (approximately 70 years). For PFAS, one would have to drink eight glasses of water per day containing more than 70ppt PFAS for 70 years to exceed the LHA.

-What is 70 ppt? A part per trillion, an extremely small measurement unit.  In units of time, it would be 1 second in 32,000 years.  The lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion equates to approximately 3.5 droplets of water in an Olympic size pool (660,000 gallons).

Currently, the regulatory environment for PFAS is extremely fluid. Ongoing research and regulatory guidance for PFAS are changing almost weekly. The Airport will remain vigilant to stay abreast of scientific and regulatory developments to facilitate appropriate investigation, mitigation and potential remediation on and around the Jackson Hole Airport.

Steps Already Taken to Limit Future Use

The Airport has already implemented a number of measures to limit the use of AFFF containing PFAS at the Airport going forward. Under these measures, PFAS will only be discharged on the Airport under circumstances where its use is necessary to protect human life. These measures include:

–  Eliminating the need to discharge foam for required training exercises,

–  Purchasing and using a “No Foam” system which eliminates any discharge of AFFF for required Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) vehicle equipment calibration.

–  Transitioning to a MIL-F-24385F certified AFFF product containing PFAS ingredients that are currently understood to have the lowest risk to human health. and

–  Making changes to post-emergency response plans, so to the extent necessary and possible there will be timely containment, collection, and proper disposal of AFFF containing PFAS in the event of an aircraft fire emergency.

The Airport is staying abreast of possible changes to FAA requirements with respect to the use of AFFF containing PFAS.  We are preparing to shift away from such use as soon as possible, if and to the extent FAA authorizes the use of a PFAS-free AFFF product.

The Jackson Hole Airport has hired nationally recognized environmental consultants to guide the Board in making the best decisions concerning PFAS. Select members of airport staff are also dedicated to supporting this environmental team. We are invested in our community and ecosystem and will continue to collaborate with highly qualified specialists to assist us with every aspect of this process.

Investigations Conducted to Date

Understanding that AFFF has been used on airport property in the past, the Airport has conducted well water sampling events to investigate the potential for PFAS to be in groundwater on and near the airport.  First, in February 2020, the Airport sampled fourteen wells on airport property. Some level of PFAS was detected in five of the fourteen sampled monitoring wells on airport property. Of these, two wells contained concentrations higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt).

In light of these results, in June 2020, the Airport initiated testing on private residential wells immediately adjacent to and downgradient of the Airport, in order to determine if and to what extent PFAS was present in this source of drinking water. The Airport solicited property owners with residences located in the neighborhood to volunteer for sampling and analyses of their water wells. Overall, 32 well owners initially volunteered and their wells were tested.

Although sampling results indicate that PFAS compounds have migrated off airport property, several test results showed non-detect levels (indicating that PFAS was not found in those wells).  Overall, ninety percent of the well results indicated levels of PFOA + PFOS, the chemicals of greatest concern, below 46 ppt, with the highest level slightly greater than 70 ppt (U.S. EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory).  In an abundance of caution, the Airport intends to conduct additional sampling outside of this original testing boundary to determine the extent of the PFAS migration. (Phase I Sampling)

For complete test results for the Phase I – Voluntary Residential Testing Area, please click here.

Phase I & Phase II Sampling

Understanding that AFFF has been used on airport property in the past, we sampled airport water wells for PFAS earlier this year. Some level of PFAS was detected in five of the 13 sampled wells on airport property. Of these, two wells contained concentrations higher than EPA’s lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt), which is based on a individual consuming eight glasses of water daily during their lifetime.

Phase I Sampling has been conducted and completed. Thirty-two residences adjacent to the airport property were tested during Phase I. Thirty-one of these private wells tested as either “no detect” or were below the EPA advisory number. Only one well tested above the EPA advisory at 70.3 ppt. The Jackson Hole Airport Board will address all sites that test over 70 ppt through Phase I and Phase II Testing.

In light of these results the Airport Board has decided to implement Phase II testing to better determine the geographic extent to which PFAS may exist.  Phase II Sampling is based on scientific data collected through Phase I.

Resources 

JAC PFAS Investigation Plan

JAC PFAS Frequently Asked Questions – Phase II

U.S. State Resources about PFAS

EPA Lifetime Health Advisory

For questions, please email community@jhairport.org or call (307) 201-5391.