MARCH 2010

FAA/EPA to close Alaskan vehicle waste disposal wells

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has pledged to permanently close over two dozen motor vehicle waste disposal wells in Alaska. The FAA action resulted from an administrative order on consent issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The FAA Alaska Region has committed to closing the wells, known as injections wells, by 2012. The injection wells, built mainly in the 1940s and 1950s and located across the state, were used by FAA to dispose of fluids collected through maintenance facility floor drains. Disposed fluids likely included motor vehicle waste such as engine oil, brake fluid, fuel, cleaning solvents and other materials. FAA has not used the injection wells for motor vehicle waste in years.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA banned this category of wells in 1999 and required their closure in Alaska by 2005. Motor vehicle waste disposal wells can contaminate underground sources of drinking water. Since FAA self-identified its wells to EPA in 1996, it has already closed half its inventory and has been actively working to close the rest of its injection wells to comply with the law.

Underground injection wells are often used in areas where sewage treatment facilities are not available. When an injection well is used for fluid disposal, it is important to ensure that no harmful substances that could endanger drinking water sources are injected.

FAA entered into the order voluntarily and is working with EPA to document the well closures.