Airservices is Australia's air navigation service provider - we provide air traffic control, aviation rescue and fire fighting and air navigation services.

Research and development

To better understand PFAS and develop practical, risk-based solutions to the challenges it presents, Airservices has significantly invested in research and development with industry and university groups.

Airservices PFAS Research & Development program includes initiatives aimed at:

  • gaining a better understanding of the behaviour of PFAS in the environment;
  • supporting initiatives to establish screening criteria for ecological, human health and waste management;
  • developing treatments to remove PFAS from impacted materials.

Current initiatives being implement or supported by Airservices are listed below.

Water

Wastewater Treatment Plant Field Scale
Location: Hobart Airport Fire Training Ground
Partners: Beca, Evocra and Insite

This project is designed to remove PFAS from waste water to allow it to be discharged to storm water. The project will test the effectiveness for managing PFAS impacted wastewater at Airservices Hobart Airport Fire Training Ground. Two technology providers will trial their systems at the airport over six months – the first commenced full trial operations in November 2018 for approximately 6 months. Airservices aims to have a wastewater treatment solution available for roll out by the end of 2019.

Soil

Smouldering – University of Queensland
Location: University of Queensland
Partners: University of Queensland

This trial will evaluate the potential for PFAS removal from soils using laboratory scale smouldering combustion.

The process of slow, low temperature, flameless burning change the PFAS to small particles which are then able to be destroyed using established technologies.

This project formally commenced in March 2018 and is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

Rembind ecological impact study – University of Queensland
Location: University of Queensland
Partners: University of Queensland

Airservices undertook research in 2015 to test PFAS contaminated soils with the soil amendment RemBind. This was designed to immobilise PFAS in soil – to lock the PFAS in the soil and minimise migration. The treatment proved to be effective however further testing on the treated soils was required.

The next stage of investigation is underway – a trial which will determine the long term effectiveness of the RemBind treatment by re-assessing the treated soils and application of Remind as an in-situ treatment.

This project is expected to be completed by mid – 2019.

Waste

PFAS Destruction Trial – Hobart Airport
Location: Hobart Airport Fire Training Ground FTG & AECOM workshop
Partners: AECOM

This trial is based on breaking down PFAS. The intention is for the trial to prove and evaluate if PFAS can be broken down and destroyed. Airservices provided AECOM Australia Pty Ltd with PFAS containing waste materials as part of the preliminary pilot scale testing of an electrochemical oxidation reactor.  The technology uses a proprietary system to destroy dissolved PFAS via electrochemical oxidation, essentially destroying the carbon-fluorine bond resulting in the break down of PFAS into individual natural components.

This project will commence in 2019.

Concrete

X55 Trial (concrete treatment) – Hobart Airport
Location: Hobart Airport Fire Station washdown bay
Partners: Ki Strategies and Arcadis

This project aims to minimise PFAS leaching from impacted concrete infrastructure using a treatment product called X55.

This product is applied to concrete infrastructure (by painting it on) and is designed to repair and extend life of the existing concrete. This project will assess its ability to minimise the PFAS from leaching out. The research and development project is designed to assess the effectiveness of X55 on contaminated concrete surfaces such as the washdown bay and fire training ground pad and crushed concrete generated from the demolition of impacted infrastructure.

This project formally commenced in November 2018 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Commonwealth-supported research projects

Airservices participates in Commonwealth supported R&D activities, including ARC Linkage Grant Projects. The following Linkage project receives funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) in line with the funds provided by the project partners.

Groundwater R&D: Fate & transport of fluorinated surfactants and hydrocarbons – Brisbane Airport  
Location: Brisbane Airport
Partners: University of Queensland, Brisbane Airport Corporation Pty Ltd and NSW Environment Protection Authority

This project is focused on obtaining a better understanding of the behavior and migration patterns of PFAS and may potentially result in meaningful applications to the management of PFAS in the coastal airport environment. This will be done by collecting and analysing  groundwater and soil samples and would help to inform applications for groundwater treatment and on-site applications of soil amendments for managing sources of PFAS

This project formally commenced in November 2016 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.  Airservices gratefully acknowledges the ARC support for this project (LP160100510). More information on this project can be found on the University of Queensland website.

Other Commonwealth-supported projects

Airservices is also partnering with a number of research partners as part of the Special Research Initiatives (SRI) grant scheme administered by the ARC.  The SRI program was initiated in 2018 primarily to assist with development of treatment solutions for PFAS impacted media, and is supported by a discrete Commonwealth funding pool.

The projects Airservices is partnering in include:

  • Remediation of PFAS contaminated soil using soil washing and immobilisation
  • Integrated, scalable technology solutions for PFAS removal and destruction

More information on these projects can be found on the University of Queensland website.

Health Studies

Second Exposure Study – University of Queensland
Location: University of Queensland
Partners: University of Queensland

The purpose of the study is to conduct a targeted staff exposure study that will establish current serum PFAS concentrations in current and former Airservices fire fighting staff to enable Airservices to confirm whether existing workplace health and safety (WHS) controls are effective in reducing PFASs exposure. This work will contribute to the broader scientific knowledge of PFASs levels within the fire fighting industry, through peer-reviewed research publications.

This project formally commenced in mid-2018 with the study report and individual participant results expected by late 2019.

First Exposure Study – University of Queensland
Location: University of Queensland
Partners: University of Queensland

In 2013 Airservices engaged toxicology experts from the University of Queensland to conduct a voluntary health study on our fire fighters and their potential exposure to PFAS. All of the fire fighters employed at the time were invited to take part, with approximately 149 of 731 consenting to participate.

The study included voluntary blood testing with results provided directly to staff and advice to speak to a medical professional if they had any concerns.

This was done to provide them with a baseline as well as contribute to the research literature that was starting to emerge.

View study report

Related links

Australian Government PFAS site
The central Australian Government PFAS website. It provides easy access to information on PFAS for a wide range of interested audiences.

The Department of Health
Provides up to date information on the known health effects and exposure pathways of PFAS, current health initiatives and community support.

News

16 August 2018
Airservices to support innovative PFAS remediation research

31 July 2018
Updated FAQ on the historical use of PFAS containing foams at Australian airports

18 October 2017
Gold Coast spear bore sampling results


For more news visit the Airservices Newsroom