The Warwick Sewer Authority is taking part in something interesting. T.F. Green Airport is using bacteria in order to clean up the fluids used to make sure ice does not build up on airplanes. When there is a risk of ice collecting on an airplane’s wings, airport workers apply propylene glycol, which is typically used for a variety of applications. Its active ingredient can be found in engine coolants and antifreeze, airplane de-icer’s, paints, enamels and varnishes, to name a few. Traditionally the airplanes at T.F. Green Airport were sprayed in specific areas where storm drains could be closed and the fluids collected were recycled. Now, the airport has one of four de-icer management facilities in the world, where the fluids can be cleaned. The fluids are collected through the sewer system, where sensors detect any glycol. Fluids with glycol are sent to large storage tanks before they’re processed to be cleaned by bacteria that eat the chemicals. The total cost of this innovative project was approximately $36.3 million. A portion of the funding was made available through the Federal Aviation Administration and $33.5 million, through a loan from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank’s Clean Water Program. The bank helps run federal and state programs, including financial assistance toward wastewater.
Interesting facts about how Glycol is obtained: it is first collected through a storm-drain system, or during dry weather, with the help of vacuum-like trucks. Then, sensors are used to detect the levels of glycol. If glycol is detected, it is sent to two large storage tanks that can hold 2.9 million gallons each. The glycol is then processed into two smaller tanks each holding 40,000 gallons, where the bacteria eats the chemicals. The water, which is now pre-treated, heads to the Warwick Sewer Authority.