State environmental officials say no one has stepped up to take responsibility for cleanup costs after a World War II-era plane crashed at Bradley International Airport, killing seven people. Meanwhile, those costs continue to rise.
The B-17 airplane attempted to return to the airport shortly after takeoff, but it crashed and struck a de-icing facility on the southwest side of Bradley.
When the plane caught fire, first responders fought the blaze using a firefighting solution called aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF.
AFFF is required by the Federal Aviation Administration because it is effective at putting out aviation gas fires.
But the foam also contains PFAS chemicals. An emerging body of science indicates those compounds are associated with bad health effects in animals and humans, including liver and immune system problems.
During a community meeting in Windsor Wednesday night, Shannon Pociu, with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said that about 700 to 800 gallons of AFFF concentrate was used to fight the blaze.
She said the concentrate, when mixed with water, resulted in 22,000 to 25,000 gallons of AFFF solution being discharged. Some of that solution made it into storm drains at Bradley, eventually flowing into Rainbow Brook in Windsor.
Because of that, Pociu said, first responders needed to conduct soil and water testing. It also meant the deployment of containment booms, all at a cost to state taxpayers.
“The response is still being handled by DEEP’s emergency response unit. There has not yet been a responsible party who has stepped up to take responsibility,” Pociu said. “To date, I’m told that DEEP has expended about $600,000 in emergency response costs.”
DEEP officials estimated that about 48 hours after the crash, the agency had recovered nearly 120,000 gallons of PFAS solution and water.
The agency said it is still collecting and storing liquids for transport and disposal.
In an emailed statement, DEEP spokesperson Kristina Rozek said, “We have funding set aside in our emergency spills reserve fund for situations such as this one.”
Rozek said DEEP is attempting to determine who should accept financial responsibility.
“When the responsible party is unable to act immediately to accept the financial responsibility and there are risks to the environment or public health and safety, the state is obligated to initiate and carry out the cleanup,” Rozek said. “We then work with the responsible party to recover any of the direct costs, as required by state statute.”
A spokesperson for the Collings Foundation, which owned and flew the aircraft, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in an earlier statement, the foundation said it “has been and remains fully cooperative with officials to determine the cause of the crash.”
A final report could take months.