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 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.

PFAS, a family grouping of over 5,000 chemicals, is found in many 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 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 1970s and used at airports for aircraft fire emergencies. AFFF is an extinguishing agent for flammable liquid fires such as those caused by jet fuel due to its ability to form a layer of aqueous film over fuel to extinguish and prevent fire. The effectiveness of this film forming layer is dependent upon PFAS, which have stable chemical and thermal properties that do not easily break down when exposed to water or heat. Due to its effectiveness, the United States military created specification MIL-F-24385F which requires AFFF contain PFAS. In turn, the FAA has ordered certificated airports supporting air carrier operations, such as the Jackson Hole Airport, to use AFFF containing PFAS for aircraft fire emergencies.

Understanding that AFFF has been used on airport property in the past, we have recently sampled airport monitoring water wells for PFAS. 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). These were monitoring wells only, and PFAS above the advisory limit has not been found in any domestic water well.  While PFAS is recognized as an emerging contaminant, national standards for concentrations in drinking water have not yet been established.

In light of these results, the Airport has developed a PFAS Investigation Plan to determine the extent to which PFAS has migrated off-airport, and if so, whether it can be detected at levels above the EPA advisory level.

The first step in the Investigation Plan is to conduct testing of private domestic water wells in adjacent areas off Airport property. Sampling of private residential wells will occur on a voluntary basis for those properties located within the Voluntary Residential Testing Boundary.

Homeowners located within the Voluntary Testing Boundary will be receiving a letter via U.S. Mail and email on how to enroll in the Voluntary Residential Testing Program. Well samples can be scheduled to be taken Monday, June 15th through Thursday, June 19th from 7 am-6 pm. Please reserve your sample time before 6 pm on Thursday, June 11th by calling the Jackson Hole Airport at (307) 201-5391. Sampling is anticipated to be conducted in 45 minutes or less at each location. Technicians will not need to enter residences to collect samples and proper physical distancing measures will be followed.

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 should only be discharged on the Airport in the future in circumstances where its use is necessary to protect human life. These measures include:

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

-The purchase and use of a “No Foam” system which eliminates any discharge of AFFF for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) vehicle equipment calibration.

-Transitioning from a C8 to a C6 foam [1], 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 another AFFF product.

[1] U.S. EPA’s 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program focused on reducing longer chain (i.e., C8 or greater) perfluorinated chemicals and PFOA emissions, because data shows that shorter chain compounds have a lower potential for toxicity and bioaccumulation. This change was made at the Jackson Hole Airport in 2009.

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.

Resources & Articles

JAC PFAS Investigation Plan

JAC PFAS Frequently Asked Questions

U.S. State Resources about PFAS

Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Grand Rapids, Michigan 

Martha’s Vineyard Airport, Tisbury, Massachusetts

Dane County Regional Airport, Madison,Wisconsin

Dillingham Airport, Dillingahm, Alaska

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