EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Atlantic City International Airport is embarking on an environmental project to keep de-icing fluid out of groundwater.
It awarded two contracts Thursday to companies to start building an 11-acre de-icing pad over an elaborate stormwater collection system to trap runoff.
The water polluted with chemical de-icers will then be sent to a treatment facility.
“It’s a new apron that can accommodate up to three planes at a time to be de-iced,” said SJTA Director of Engineering and Chief Engineer Stephen M. Mazur.
The construction contract is for $19.35 million to A.P. Construction of Blackwood, to build the underground stormwater system and apron. Another $1.46 million contract went to Michael Baker International of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, for construction management and inspection services on the project.
Much of the cost is covered by federal grants, Mazur said.
Mazur said it would be constructed just off the gate area, so planes would board, head for deicing and then out to the runway for takeoff.
Under the apron a stormwater system will be installed with valves to let rain out, but hold in water with any contamination.
De-icing is required any time there is ice on an aircraft, Mazur said. Because planes fly so high, where the air is colder, they can come in iced up even if ground temperatures are above freezing, and need to be de-iced before taking off again.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most airports must deice to some degree from October to May to take off and operate planes safely.
The FAA requires deicing by airports, and if there are no discharge controls in place, there can be serious environmental impacts, according to EPA.
“In addition to potential aquatic life and human health impacts from the toxicity of deicing and anti-icing chemicals, the biodegradation of propylene or ethylene glycol ... can greatly impact water quality, including significant reduction in dissolved oxygen levels, which can lead to fish kills,” a 2000 EPA report on airport operations said.
Glycols are organic compounds that make up the base chemicals in deicers.
Ethylene glycol is commonly referred to as antifreeze, and EPA recommends the increased use of propylene glycol over ethylene.
Currently at ACY, de-icing is done at the gate, where planes are sprayed down and large vacuum trucks remove the fluid from drain areas.
Mazur said even some big airports don’t have the full de-icing facility ACY will soon have.
“We are trying to protect the whole campus from pollution,” Mazure said.
This phase of construction will take about a year and a half and will be followed by a final state of constructing a building for the controls for the system and a holding tank.
The final phase is expected to cost another $8 million, Mazur said.