Environment Department Looks At De-Icing Fluid

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Alaska’s environment department is considering regulating the cleanup of “spills” of propylene glycol, the most common chemical de-icing fluid used on aircraft. Aviation groups are monitoring the progress of the proposed legislation and some individuals are questioning the point of the new law, which doesn’t address the hundreds of thousands of gallons of the chemical sprayed on aircraft every year that almost immediately drips on the ground. "What's the difference between spilling and dripping?" pilot Woody Richardson wondered in a recent interview with the Anchorage Daily News. Propylene glycol is considered much less toxic than ethylene glycol, the main constituent of automotive antifreeze and another common deicer. Last winter, 380,000 gallons of propylene glycol and 114,000 gallons of ethylene glycol were used to de-ice aircraft at Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport and while some of it is collected onsite, most drains into Cook Inlet. Some gets into Lake Hood. But while almost 500,000 gallons of the chemicals are dissipated into the local environment each year, the proposed law would only require an industrial clean-up response in the event of a “significant event” such as a truck turning over and losing its load on the ground.