Environmental Consulting Firm to Study Airport’s Proposed Stormwater Disposal System

A $349,800 contract was recently awarded to the Colorado-based consulting firm CH2M HILL to study the environmental effects of the $15 million dollar stormwater disposal system that is in development at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

For over 15 years the airport has been dumping the deicing compound, propylene glycol (or PG), into the Trout Creek tributary, located north of the airport. PG is an organic compound, and also the only deicer that is Federal Aviation Administration approved. In 2010, the airport was ordered by the state to come up with a new disposal system for the deicer, as resident’s complaints increased due to a growth of a slimy biofilm that has been fouling the tributary.

The conceptual design offers a pipeline that will directly divert the headwaters of trout creek along the secluded section of airport/MDOT property, into the Thornapple river. A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) stormwater permit only required that the airport permanently eliminate their contribution to the biofilm issue in Trout Creek. The plan does not offer any guarantees that any of these issues will not occur again.

Eliminating PG in the Thornapple is the airport’s primary concern, however, residents concerns go beyond PG to include a number of  other pollutants.  PG has the ability to dissolve certain hazardous substances, as well as break down large molecules, such as oil and grease, making them extremely mobile. This gives PG the ability to potentially absorb or carry almost anything it comes into contact with on the tarmac, including: oil, fuel, solvents, salts, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and metals.

CH2M Hill will likely begin its environmental assessment this month.

Currently, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing the airport’s application to put the new stormwater disposal system into effect, which needs to be in place by 2015.

0 replies
  1. Anne Pynnonen
    Anne Pynnonen says:

    I believe the airport already hired CH2M Hill about 2 years ago to do a study like this and did not let the Thornapple River neighbors know or consider them stake holders at that time. We neighbors are asking questions and are very concerned with the solution they have come up with.

    I am concerned there are federal and state dollars going to this same company to the tune of $345,000 or so to look at it again. How about spreading the wealth and letting another environmental company take a look at capturing the runoff at the source and recycling the glycol with a deicing pad like many other airports do?


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