Department of Ecology News Release - October 14, 2019

Helping fire departments safely dispose of toxic foam

Firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals has contaminated Washington drinking water supplies

Washington fire departments are getting help collecting and disposing of toxic firefighting foam that was banned in 2018.
OLYMPIA  –  In recent years, traces of toxic chemicals known as PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) have been found in the drinking water supplies of several Washington communities. The source of this contamination has been linked to firefighting foam intended to extinguish petroleum fires. In 2018, the Washington Legislature banned the sale of this foam for most uses, and also banned its use in training exercises.
That left some local fire agencies stuck with stockpiles of this foam – and stuck with questions about how to safely dispose of it. The Washington Department of Ecology is stepping into that gap with a new program to collect and safely dispose of the problem foams. The 2019 Legislature provided funding for Ecology to do these kinds of assistance programs to help keep toxic chemicals out of the environment.
“We know that no fire department wants to do anything that might threaten water quality in their community, so we’re really happy to be able to help them get rid of these toxic products,” said Darin Rice, manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program.
Ecology is working with the Washington State Fire Marshal and the Washington Fire Chiefs association to let local fire departments know about the program and answer their questions.
“The safety of our members is paramount,” said Wayne Senter, executive director of the Washington Fire Chiefs Association. “We’re proud to assist the Department of Ecology in helping fire agencies across the state identify and remove these toxic chemicals from use.”

Other states have conducted similar programs, but Ecology’s will be the most comprehensive in the country, taking all forms of PFAS foams. There will also be no cost to fire departments to participate in the disposal program – Ecology is working with a hazardous waste contractor to collect and dispose of the foam.

Contact information

Andrew Wineke
Twitter: ecologywa