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The objective of this project was to demonstrate the field application and environmental benefits of non-toxic, biodegradable, low biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) alternatives to the current aircraft deicers (i.e., propylene glycols[PG]) used extensively by the Department of Defense (DoD). Qualification testing was conducted by independent laboratories prior to the field demonstration to verify that the new fluids were compatible for use on aircraft. The field demonstration measured the operational performance of the deicing fluid and quantified their environmental benefits. Environmental monitoring was conducted, and computer-based modeling of the runoff water quality was employed to allow further analysis, including predictions of environmental impact during a variety of weather conditions and side-by-side comparisons with other deicing fluid formulations.
The low BOD fluids contain a combination of non-toxic, biodegradable, water soluble, organic freezing point depressants and surfactants to meet all deicing fluid performance requirements and provide a tailorable biodegradation rate. By allowing a slow, complete degradation of the ingredients, the fluid will not dangerously deplete dissolved oxygen levels in receiving waters. In addition, fluids ingredients have reduced aquatic toxicities and are lower in cost as compared to current propylene glycol-based fluid formulations.
Significant results from this technology demonstration include:
The second manufacturer’s deicing fluid formulation left a slippery residue on the aircraft that did not evaporate or shear off in flight and reduced visual acuity on various aircraft transparencies. This residue prevented ground crews from performing their normal wing walk inspections following the flight without posing significant personal injury risk. As a result, both fluids failed to meet acceptable performance criteria.
The ultimate benefits to DoD for using low BOD deicing fluids include: (1) introduction of a low toxicity, low BOD alternative to current military deicing fluids and (2) elimination of the need to capture, contain, and treat deicing fluid runoff using expensive and operationally disruptive centralized deicing facilities. If all DoD operations switched to low BOD fluids (once acceptable formulations have been commercialized), savings could be realized. Moreover, the use of low BOD fluids would reduce the risk of Notices of Violation for non-compliance with existing storm water discharge permits.