WA Ecology Department seeks comment on disposal plan for toxic firefighting foam

Washington’s Department of Ecology is seeking public input on a plan to dispose of a toxic fire-retardant foam that was used by fire departments for decades before the state restricted its use in 2018. Under the plan, an Ecology Department contractor, Clean Harbors Inc., would collect stockpiles of the foam from fire departments and state agencies and ship it to an incineration facility about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City.

The same type of firefighting foam was used at Fairchild Air Force Base for decades before it was found to have contaminated West Plains water supplies, including the tap water system in the city of Airway Heights. The foam in question contains substances called PFAS that have been linked with various health problems. PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they degrade extremely slowly in the environment and in the human body. The Legislature in 2018 banned the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS for training purposes, though it still may be used for fires involving flammable liquids. In July, it became illegal to sell, distribute or manufacture the foam in Washington, with exceptions for the military, federally certified airports, petroleum refineries and some chemical plants.

The Legislature gave the Ecology Department $1.7 million for the disposal effort. Washington residents can submit feedback on the department’s plan by contacting environmental planner Sean Smith at (425) 649-4495. Details of the plan can be found at ecology.wa.gov. (Spokesman-Review)