Read the full article by Elizabeth Gribkoff

“As part of a broader effort to address PFAS contamination around Vermont, the state is collecting an outdated, and toxic, firefighting foam from local fire departments for free until early October.

The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Fire Safety teamed up to dispose of Type B Aqueous Film Forming Foam, known as ‘AFFF,’ produced before 2003.

‘As the issues with PFOAs have become more well known throughout the state, fire chiefs have continually asked more questions about what foam is safe and what they should do with the foam that was no longer of any use to them,’ said Peter Lynch, chief of training at the Vermont Fire Academy.

Lynch said that while AFFF is not commonly used by fire departments, the specialized foam is crucial for quickly stopping gas fires. AFFF, first produced in the 1960s, blankets flammable liquids like petroleum and natural gas, preventing the spread of oxygen and smothering the fire.

But the same compounds — PFOA and PFOS — that made AFFF such an effective fire suppressant are now also known to be toxic. PFAS, the class of man-made chemicals that PFOA and PFOS belong to, do not break down over time and accumulate in soil, water and the human body…

Late last winter, DEC and the Division of Fire Safety surveyed fire departments around the state about their foam inventories. Of the 89 departments that responded, 29 said that they had had legacy foam in storage, ranging from several 5-gallon containers to over 100 gallons.

Lynch summed up the departments’ responses as, ‘we know we don’t want to use this, but we don’t really have the money or know how to properly dispose of it.’ The two departments pooled funds to set up disposal of pre-2003 or undated AFFF at five solid waste districts around the state, said Nahmias. Once collected, the foam will be incinerated to break down the toxic compounds.

‘The cost of disposing of it pales in comparison to what it would cost to remediate an aquifer,’ he added, referring to the process of cleaning up a contaminated drinking water source.

While PFOA and PFOS based fire fighting foams are not illegal to use in Vermont, any fire department that uses the legacy foams would have to report the use to the state as a hazardous material release, said Nahmias. Lynch said that fire departments in Vermont use alternatives to AFFF during training exercises.

Following the 2016 discovery of PFAS in drinking water in Bennington, the DEC has taken water samples at industrial and waste disposal sites around the state that may be sources of PFAS contamination…

Earlier this year, Washington became the first state to ban PFAS foam, following the discovery of contaminated wells near multiple military bases in the state.

Vermont fire departments with less than 220 pounds, or five, 5-gallon pails, of pre-2003 and undated AFFF can make a drop-off appointment with certain solid waste districts before Oct. 8. Departments with more foam than that should call the DEC’s waste management and prevention division at 802-828-1138.”