Akron-Canton Airport opens 'green' glycol removal system

Sept. 28, 2007
Akron-Canton Airport is going green with the opening of its new deicing fluid processing plant that significantly reduces glycol discharge into local stormwater systems. "This new plant is important not only to our airlines but also our local neighbors and streams," said Fred Krum, airport director. "We are really proud to be releasing very clean water from our new facility." The system was modeled after a similar deicing facility at the Albany International Airport, which makes this the...

• The sophisticated plant uses biotic community and produces its own fuel

GREEN, OH, Sept. 26 -- Akron-Canton Airport is going green with the opening of its new deicing fluid processing plant that significantly reduces glycol discharge into local stormwater systems.

"This new plant is important not only to our airlines but also our local neighbors and streams," said Fred Krum, airport director. "We are really proud to be releasing very clean water from our new facility."

The system was modeled after a similar deicing facility at the Albany International Airport, which makes this the second of its kind at any U.S. airport and one of the most sophisticated glycol removal systems in the world. It's environmentally friendly because after the glycol is used, millions of little bugs "eat" the fluid from the water, which is re-oxygenated and released into the storm sewer runoff system. And yes, we do mean bugs. It's a biotic community inside the tank that hibernates in the summer and is activated by sugar in the winter.

Here's how it works: glycol, which also is used in many household products like carbonated beverages, salad dressings and baking products, removes snow and ice from planes. The Akron-Canton Airport used up to 135,710 gallons of it in 2005. But glycol also removes oxygen from water that can cause ecological harm to stream plant life and fish.

With the help of Congressman Ralph Regula, the airport was able to secure two $5-million grants from the federal government to build the glycol processing plant. "As a matter of public safety and responsible environmental stewardship, the Akron-Canton Airport is moving in the right direction with the introduction of this new technology to its operations. I am pleased to see the new system up and running," Regula said.

Construction started in July 2005 on two concrete deicing pads. The south pad can hold up to three 717 aircraft at a time while the north pad can accommodate one full size jet or 2-3 business or private aircraft. Aircraft are sprayed with glycol before departure.

The run-off flows into a drainage system where it is stored in two 750,000 gallon storage tanks constructed to hold up to 1,500,000 gallons of glycol contaminated water known as effluent. In Sept. 2006, construction began on the Anaerobic Fluidized Bed Reactor System, which uses a biotic community -the bugs -- that eats the glycol out of the effluent. It's first pumped into the treatment plant, heated and ran through a large reactor where the bugs eat the glycol leaving the water.

The water is then re-oxygenated and released. Two by-products are left from the process -- a small amount of sludge that is discarded and methane gas, which is captured and re-used in the treatment plant as fuel to heat the stormwater and the building (another environmentally-friendly feature of this project.) The building was designed by Reynolds Smith and Hills Inc. while the glycol treatment system was completed by Gresham Smith and Partners.

As for the little bugs, they hibernate in the summer when they're not being used. A little sugar helps the biotic community grow and restores the bugs again for next winter.

The Akron-Canton Airport dedicated its new, spacious, passenger concourse and celebrated its sixtieth birthday in October 2006. The concourse was the centerpiece of the airport's $60 million, five-year STAR expansion project which also wrapped up in October.

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