CHICAGO (June 17, 1999)-- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
United States Citizens Aviation Watch (US-CAW), the Alliance of Residents
Concerning O'Hare (AreCO), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and
the City of Chicago announced today that they have settled claims made by NRDC
and the other groups. NRDC and the other organizations had claimed that the City
was in violation of the reporting requirements of the Comprehensive
Environmental Resonse Compensation Liability Act (CERCLA), the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA)
with regard to deicing operations at O'Hare International Airport. The City of
Chicago had denied the allegations and disagreed with the organizations'
interpretations of the reporting requirements of these acts. Under terms of the
settlement agreement, the City will report the use of ethylene glycol-based
deicing fluids at O'Hare.
The main concern of NRDC, which had given legal notice of intent to file suit against the City and one other airport last year, involved the reporting of ethylene glycol. NRDC and the other organizations claim that ethylene glycol can be harmful, and even deadly, when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. The threat of a suit was necessary, the groups maintain, because O'Hare was allegedly not satisfactorily reporting the use of ethylene glycol to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The suit was not filed because of the City's willingness to report and to explore using other deicing chemicals that the groups consider less toxic.
The City is already in the process of constructing infrastructre improvements to collect stormwater runoff, which contains deicing fluids, and to prevent the release of the fluids to the environment. The City estimates the cost of the improvements to be in excess of $80 million.
"While this agreement is a step in the right direction, we hope it leads to an actual reduction in the amounts of deicing chemicals used at the airport. The City now has the oppportunity to be an example to airports nationwide by exploring the use of alternative deicing fluids and opportunities for recycling deicing fluids," said Nancy Marks, senior NRDC attorney.
Aviation Commissioner Mary Rose Loney was pleased with the agreement. "The use of deicing fluids is of paramount importance to the safety of the traveling public. We are hopeful that this agreement will help in finding effective ways of limiting any environmental impacts that could result from the use of deicing fluids," said Loney. "While we disagreed with NRDC's interpretation of the Clean Water Act, CERCLA, and EPCRA, we agree with them that the community should be better informed about environmental progress at O'Hare."
The recycling of deicing fluids used at airports and limiting their release into the environment is a nationwide concern for citizen groups: "Cumulative exposures to deicing fluids and their chemical components present a major concern to human health, animal welfare, and the environment," asserts Jack Saporito, president of US-CAW and AreCO. "Eventually, we hope to find ways to totally eliminate all releases of these toxic chemicals to our environment."
Patricia Lane, an attorney for HSUS, added that, "Ethylene glycol is know to be lethal to animals when ingested. Animals are naturally attracted to this sweet-tasing chemical. The fact that the City is now investigating possible ways to limit use of this toxic chemical is a tremendous step in safeguarding animal welfare."
As part of the agreement, the steps being taken by the City include:
1) Laboratory testing of at least four runway deicing fluids (RDF), and in-field pilot tests on at least one alternative RDF during the 1998-1999 deicing season.
2) Performing a review of the aircraft deicing fluid recycling efforts currently being undertaken by at least six major airports across the country where significant deicing occurs.
3) Preparing and distributing a Request for Proposal (RFP) inviting proposals from third parties to collect and recycle deicing fluids at O'Hare. Accepted proposals can be impelemented during the 1999-2000 deicing season.
4) Investigation alternative products and technology to reduce the use of deicing fluids.