Tens of thousands of gallons of firefighting foam containing PFAS are now expected to be picked up from nearly 150 Connecticut fire departments.
“We know a number pretty close to around 40,000 gallons,” said Jeff Morrissette, state fire administrator.
It’s a take-back program that has been in development for almost two years.
“The accidental release here at Bradley Airport has created a lot of public outcry if you will,” Morrissette said.
The foam is used to extinguish flammable liquids during emergencies such as a tanker fire or more specifically, the crash of a vintage B-17 plane in Bradley. It was the accidental spill of moss into the Farmington River in 2019 that led to a fishing advisory and the establishment of a state task force to address the presence of PFAS statewide.
PFAS, known as the “forever chemicals”, have been linked to health risks ranging from developmental effects in fetuses and infants to some forms of cancer.
Morrissette informed state, regional and municipal fire departments on Thursday of the two-pronged approach to clearing the state of foam. The first step involves an environmental service company that can safely dispose of it.
“We anticipate that fire departments will begin receiving communications within approximately two weeks from Clean Harbors to begin scheduling actual pickups at fire department locations across the state,” Morrissette said.
Morrissette says the process should take around 60 days. The second step is to remove the foam from state fire trailers and municipal fire trucks.
“Kind of like emptying your soap pitcher and it’s empty, but there’s still so much product in there,” said Jay Kelly, equipment technician for the Bristol Fire Department.
Kelly said he looks forward to removing the chemical from his trucks and hearing about alternative foam recommendations the state will make next. These are changes that he said will help eliminate exposure of firefighters to the harmful foam substance known to cause adverse health effects, including some cancers.
“Personally, they’ll be protected, they won’t be any contaminants in the foam,” Kelly said.