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AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) and other PFAS-containing Foam Phase Out in The Arctic

An Arctic Council project has been initiated to transition from firefighting foam agents currently used to control flammable liquid fires because of concerns with their environmental and occupational health performance to types that do not exhibit these concerns.

The current issue

Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is an extinguishing agent used to extinguish flammable liquid fires. It is used in many different sectors and has been the extinguishing agent of choice for these hazards for many years.

In most cases it has been used in training, testing and actual incidents without any attempt to contain it or treat it before allowing it to disperse to the ground or water.

In recent years there has been growing concern about the long term environmental and health effects of one specific family of chemicals that is used extensively in this type of firefighting foam – Per- or Poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) [1].

[1] https://www.oecd.org/chemicalsafety/portal-perfluorinated-chemicals/aboutpfass/ ; https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/emerging-chemical-risks-in-europe

Overall Project Objectives

• To identify fluorinated firefighting foam users and applications

• To develop cost effective and appropriate recommendations for the removal of PFAS based firefighting foams for all applications within the Arctic region, and replacement by foams that do not have the same environmental and health effect concerns, without jeopardising levels of risk reduction.

• To arrest legacy issues at current levels

• To provide guidance, training and protocols on the transition to effective alternatives

Lead-countries: Finland, USA

Participating countries: CAN, DK, FI, IS, NO, RF, SE, USA

Consultants: ENRgConsultants (UK), Evgeny Tretyakov (RF)

ENRg Consultants is a specialist Fire Hazard Management independent consultancy company with particular experience and expertise in foam application on a global basis.

How will the Project be carried out?

The project will be managed by a Steering Panel comprising Arctic Council country representatives and other stakeholders with expertise and experience in foam usage.

A phased approach will be taken and the emphasis will be on providing practical, workable guidance on making the transition

Although the most important aspect of a firefighting foam is obviously its firefighting performance, there are other important aspects of thetransition process, all of which will be considered during the project and accounted for in the guidance developed:

  • Suitability for Arctic Environment
  • Compatibility with and/or changes to application systems and equipment
  • Environmental impact
  • Procedures for cleaning out the residues from the equipment and extinguishing systems
  • Disposal methods for old foam
  • Preplanning for and training in the use of new foams

Project phases

  • Phase 1 Data Collection & Assessment of Current Situation
    • Review of current legislative fire and environmental requirements in Arctic states
    • Collecting data on the current situation including local legislative requirements and current foam application practices
    • Identification of foam users by sector and facility
    • Review of the components of the foams currently used to confirm foam types
    • Collating relevant international best practice guidance
    • Developing data gathering and analysis templates
  • Phase 2 Pilot Studies
    • Selection of typical facilities for site visit within each end user/industry
    • Site visits for pilot studies and use of analysis tool
    • Summary report on findings of pilot studies outlining requirements of those protocols, options and policies for implementation of transition.
    • Feasibility and cost estimates for selected transition proposals.
  • Phase 3 Development of Initial Protocols, Policies & Options and associated procedures (based on total changeover) and dissemination of knowledge
    • Protection Methods or other fire hazard management measures
    • Removal & disposal options for existing foam stock
    • Clean up of equipment, etc.
    • Performance specification and environmental effects data for future foam concentrates
    • Reinstatement of systems/commissioning of systems
    • Future containment, collection and disposal of fire water/effluent
    • Training
    • Ongoing Assurance
    • Emergency planning for foam control at incidents
    • Development of recommended timescales for implementation and evaluation of implementation programme throughout the Arctic region
    • Development of awareness raising material and training programmes