The MAA’s Environmental Compliance Section ensures that all activities that take place at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall International (BWI) and Martin State Airports conform with environmental laws and minimize the potential to cause pollution of our land, air, and waterways.
One of the primary things that the Environmental Compliance Section focuses on is stormwater management. Stormwater management is the process by which water (either from rain or from melting snow or ice) running off the airport is managed to minimize potential pollution. Many everyday activities that occur at airports, such as fueling aircraft and ground vehicles; constructing new buildings and runways; storing, transporting and using pesticides and herbicides to control plants on the grounds; and deicing aircraft and runways during snow and ice; can potentially impact stormwater. Therefore, the MAA has developed procedures and plans that airport employees and tenants follow to minimize the potential for stormwater from MAA property to impact the environment. The MAA has put appropriate physical controls in place on its property to control stormwater, and it also promotes the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) that everyone that works at the airports can use to prevent pollution before it happens. Implementation of these BMPs, good housekeeping practices, and appropriate stormwater controls can prevent contaminants from traveling in stormwater into storm drains and streams and from infiltrating into our groundwater. Therefore, by following these practices, the MAA helps safeguard the water quality of our local waterways and the health of our aquatic ecosystems.
The MAA’s goal is to balance the need to keep passengers safe and commerce moving with the need to be good stewards of the environment-including preventing stormwater pollution where possible.
The Clean Water Act prohibits any point source (a drainage ditch, pipe or other outfall) from discharging pollutants into surface waters. Pollutant discharges are controlled through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. In Maryland, the NPDES program is administered by The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). MDE has authorized NPDES permit coverage to the MAA for stormwater runoff at BWI and Martin State Airports. Although the MAA holds this permit and is responsible for its implementation, all tenants are also required to adhere to the permit’s requirements. These requirements include implementing BMPs to mitigate pollution from stormwater runoff at the airport.
Ice, snow, or frost can significantly affect an aircraft’s performance. That is why deicing, which removes these substances from the airplane’s surfaces, is so important at BWI Marshall (little deicing occurs at Martin State Airport, since general aviation planes do not fly during winter storm events). Typically, deicing fluid contains propylene glycol and corrosion inhibitors to protect sensitive aircraft components. These chemicals can be harmful to the environment if not handled and disposed of properly.
BMPs implemented to reduce runoff of aircraft deicing materials at BWI Marshall include:
- Aircraft deicing fluid is applied at deicing pads or at gates where the drainage is isolated and contained for disposal.
- Glycol Recovery Vehicles (GRVs) are used to recover as much deicing runoff from pavement as possible.
- Glycol-contaminated runoff is pumped to aboveground tanks, and later discharged into Baltimore County’s sanitary system for treatment.
Pavement deicing on runway and taxiway surfaces ensures that there is adequate traction for aircraft during taxiing, take off, and landing.
BMPs implemented at the airports to reduce runoff of runway/taxiway deicing materials include:
- Environmentally friendly pavement deicers are used. Urea, which is more harmful to the environment, is never used.
- Proper application practices are encouraged to avoid excessive use of deicing materials.
BWI Marshall tenants use over 850,000 gallons of fuel per day, while 3,500 gallons per day are used by operators at Martin State Airport. Currently, fuel arrives at the airports by pipeline or truck and is kept in large above ground storage tanks. Proper procedures and training for fueling and spill response play an important role in eliminating discharges of fuel into the stormwater system. Personnel involved in fueling receive training regarding what to do in the event of a spill. A secondary line of defense against spills are oil/water separators that separate oil and water and prevent harmful substances from reaching local streams.
BMPs implemented at the airports to reduce the potential for aircraft and ground vehicle fueling to impact stormwater include:
- Ground vehicles re-fuel only in designated areas.
- Spill control kits are located in fueling areas and are readily accessible.
The maintenance and cleaning of aircraft and ground vehicles has the potential to contaminate stormwater if performed in areas that drain to the storm system or if spills and leaks are not cleaned up immediately. Hazardous materials such as paints, cleaners, solvents, herbicides/pesticides and other industrial chemicals can also contaminate stormwater if used, stored or disposed of improperly.
BMPs implemented at the airports to reduce the potential for aircraft and ground vehicle maintenance to impact stormwater include:
- Maintenance is performed in appropriate locations.
- Designated areas are used for vehicle and equipment washing to ensure that soapy water is captured and drains into the sanitary system for treatment at a wastewater plant.
- Chemicals are used appropriately and in proper concentrations, and store these materials in a covered location to prevent exposure to stormwater.
- Unused hazardous materials are returned to their designated storage areas after use.
- Used motor oil, hydraulic and other fluids are collected and disposed of in appropriate receptacles. Containers are completely drained.
- Used oil is not mixed with other substances such as antifreeze, pesticides, or solvents.
- Personnel are encouraged to take annual refresher training in federal and state regulations for use, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials and in spill procedures.
- Spills are immediately contained and collected.
- Spill kits are kept on hand, and include absorbent material such as kitty litter, plus brooms and buckets for use in cleaning up any spills or leaks. (Airport incident management teams and an on-site fire department are ready to respond to larger spills.)
Proper disposal of trash, litter, cigarette butts, restaurant grease and other wastes is just good business practice. It is essential not only so the airports look clean and inviting, but also to deter vermin and keep these wastes from polluting our streams.
Trash and Litter
When dumpsters are left open, rainwater can enter them, become contaminated, and drain out into storm sewers. Garbage can be blown out of open dumpsters and carried into the storm drain system by wind or rainwater. Cigarette butts can be carried by wind and stormwater runoff into nearby water bodies, where the filters degrade slowly and leak chemicals that can damage aquatic ecosystems.
Good housekeeping practices implemented at the airports to reduce impacts of trash and litter include:
- Ensuring that dumpsters are not overfilled.
- Ensuring that lids are closed tightly.
- Encouraging people to place cigarette butts in proper receptacles to keep them from being washed into storm drains.
Restaurant Waste Disposal
Improper disposal of restaurant-related materials can cause pollutants such as fats, oil, grease, food waste, and paper products to enter the storm drain system. This can cause increases in bacteria levels in stormwater, impact the aesthetics of our waterways, and result in impacts to aquatic life or drinking water supplies. There are no restaurants on site at Martin State Airport to produce restaurant waste.
Good housekeeping practices implemented at BWI Marshall Airport to reduce impacts of restaurant wastes include:
- Grease and oil are placed in proper containers-not in dumpsters. Grease and oil are collected separately and disposed of by the restaurant.
- Other restaurant wastes are secured in a closed dumpster.
Airport Construction-Sediment Erosion Controls and Good Housekeeping
In areas under construction, sediment from exposed soil can be washed into streams, destroying the habitat of fish and aquatic insects, covering their food sources, and clogging fish gills. Additionally, construction activities frequently involve the use of toxic or hazardous materials such as petroleum products, adhesives, solvents, and sealants. These products can pollute stormwater running off the construction site. Sediment and erosion controls, as well as good housekeeping measures, are required for all construction on airport property to prevent these types of pollution.
BMPs and good housekeeping practices implemented at the airports to reduce the impacts of construction on stormwater include:
- Erosion controls are installed and maintained at construction sites.
- Construction site materials and wastes are stored and disposed of properly so they are not exposed to stormwater runoff.
- Disturbed soil at construction sites is stabilized as soon as possible to prevent erosion.
Educating MAA staff, MAA tenants, and the general public about how to prevent or mitigate the impacts of activities on the airport on stormwater is very important. The MAA uses outreach and educational tools such as this website, posters and brochures about stormwater, and training sessions for staff and tenants, to educate people about how they can help to prevent contamination of stormwater.
Outreach and education activities undertaken by the MAA on stormwater issues include:
- Maintain this website to educate the public about stormwater management at the airports.
- Educate staff and tenants about their impacts on stormwater and methods and processes they can use to mitigate these impacts.