The environmental effects of fire fighting foams on soil

York, Diana (2002) The environmental effects of fire fighting foams on soil. (MPhil thesis), Kingston University, .


Fire fighting foams used to extinguish fires have led to concerns over the environmental consequences of their use. This study was undertaken to investigate any changes which may occur to a soil environment after the application of fire fighting foam. A pilot study was carried out at RAF Manston in Kent to examine the effect of a spill of a protein foam on to uncontaminated soil. Three sites were analysed over the course of one year from the date of the spill. One site had received multiple applications of foam, the second had received a single application and the third was untouched by the spill and was used as the control site. Soil samples were taken from each site and biological and chemical analyses carried out. In the biological investigation, soil organisms were extracted, identified and counted. In the chemical investigation ionic fluoride, available and total metal concentrations, percentage total nitrogen and soil pH were analysed. More organisms were counted throughout the year on the multiple application site than on the other two sites. The single application site and the control had similar results, although the year after the spill, the control site showed a larger numbers of organisms than the single application site. Organism numbers on all three sites were low the week after the spill in comparison to the same time the following year. Ionic fluoride concentration was slightly raised in the multiple application site, this site also showed noticeably higher concentrations of available (EDTA-extractable) aluminium, iron, magnesium and manganese throughout the analysis period than the other two sites, although the control site had the highest concentrations of copper and zinc. Only for magnesium and manganese does the single application site show higher concentrations than the control site. The total metal results show the control site with higher concentrations for all metals than the two contaminated sites. %total N results show that the multiple application site had a higher %N the week after the spill but after this there was little difference between the three sites. The pH results showed little difference between the sites except for the week after the spill, when the multiple site showed a lower pH than the single application or control sites. Overall, these results indicated that the spill may have had a more pronounced effect on the multiple application site than on the single application site which, in many cases, had results very similar to those of the uncontaminated, control site.

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