Aircraft and runway deicers are used during cold weather at many of the world's airports to facilitate safe air travel. Propylene glycol-, ethylene glycol-, and urea-based deicers are known to have very high biochemical oxygen demand. At General Mitchell International Airport (GMIA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, deicer application, water chemistry, and dissolved oxygen (DO) data were collected for two deicing seasons in order to evaluate and define premanagement water quality parameters prior to the implementation of a glycol management program. Calculations using stream-monitoring data during a controlled release of deicer provided an estimate of 0.8/d for the first-order decay rate constant, substantially higher than published laboratory test results. For eight precipitation events with deicing activities, between 2.4 and 99% of propylene and ethylene glycol applied to aircraft was delivered directly to receiving streams. The percentage of glycol runoff during an event increased with increasing storm-flow volume. Elevated concentrations of glycol and biochemical oxygen demand were measured downstream from the airport. However, the frequency of low DO concentrations in the receiving streams is comparable with that at an upstream reference site. This is possibly due to slowed bacteria metabolism at low water temperatures, short travel times, and dilution from downstream tributaries.
Additional publication details
Aircraft and runway deicers at General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. 1. Biochemical oxygen demand and dissolved oxygen in receiving streams