Too Much Froth and Bubble

Published : 14 Jul, 2017

Most of us are familiar with the news images of an aircraft fire being extinguished using fire tenders discharging fire fighting foam onto the flames. The fire fighting foam is called Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF).

Around 2000 the realisation occurred around the world that the chemicals being used to create the foam had previously unsuspected health impacts. The chemicals in question were persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic (PBT).

As a result of this realisation, new chemical formulations have been developed which are still effective as a fire fighting foam but are not PBT. From an environmental and human health perspective the safest of these do not contain Fluorine. There are still some legacy issues surrounding those sites where fire fighting training was conducted routinely prior to 2000. These issues are soil and groundwater contamination due to the fact that organofluorine compounds are very persistent in the environment and do not degrade.

Two recent incidents involving releases or potential releases of AFFF have received press coverage due to the potential for environmental and human health impacts. We believe that the AFFF chemicals involved in these incidents are thought to contain fluorine and authorities have restricted any release of these chemicals into stormwater. Firewater containing AFFF based on Fluorine is classed as a Regulated Waste in Queensland.

Why do I mention this?

Many of our clients have AFFF chemicals on site and are usually required by regulation to do so. What precautions are required to minimise the potential risk of AFFF escaping your site.

They are as follows:

  • Check that your AFFF concentrate is the latest low impact type( preferably Fluorine Free).
  • Make sure the AFFF concentrate is fully bunded to prevent accidental release of this chemical.
  • Review your firewater containment strategy. Keeping firewater containing AFFF on site will reduce potential costs significantly. We recommend being able to close off stormwater discharge from site in a fire is the most effective way to reduce risk and potential cost.

We recommend the Envirovalve as an effective emergency drain shutoff device. It is a pneumatic plug which can be activated at the press of a button – or by your phone if required.

Call us now to review your firewater containment strategy.