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De-icer treatment trials take-off at Manchester Airport

PhD student Andy Freeman explains how a new de-icer treatment system could provide the solution to one of the most challenging environmental issues facing modern day airports.

Airports use millions of litres of chemical de-icing fluids in the winter to ensure flight and passenger safety. These chemicals contain glycols which can have negative environmental impacts if they are released into lakes, rivers and streams. To prevent this airports pay significant costs to water authorities for disposal of surface water run-off contaminated with de-icers.

The main environmental impact is depletion of dissolved oxygen, which fish and other wildlife require to survive. The oxygen is consumed by naturally occurring bacteria which break down the glycol and use it as a food source. This process is known as Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and is used by regulatory authorities such as the Environment Agency to monitor the quality of industrial discharges into lakes, rivers and streams.

Reducing BOD concentrations within rivers and streams is important to improve water quality for wildlife and stakeholders. With this mind my PhD will focus on the effectiveness of a field scale experiment for removing de-icer contamination and BOD from surface water run-off.

The novel system has been designed in a three-way partnership between Peak Associates Environmental Consultants Ltd, Manchester Airport Environment Department and a team of researchers at Lancaster University through the Centre for Global Eco Innovation. The system has three connected 2,500 litre horizontal flow bio-filters, which have been designed and engineered to increase dissolved oxygen concentrations and support naturally occurring bacteria.

If successful a full scale system would prevent the need for off-site disposal both saving money and benefiting the environment. At Manchester Airport this would clean and save approximately 800 million litres of water each year.

Article taken from Lancaster Environment Centre

A brief outline of the project was recently published in the MAG Take-off Magazine on page 30

Further information can also be found at

Written by, Andy Freeman (Graduate PhD researcher at the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation). The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation is the only centre of its kind in Europe and is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

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Thu 28 November 2013