080621 sm airport tower

Santa Maria Public Airport control tower overlooks the runways where private and commercial aircraft land and take off.  

A Central Coast water board will charge more than $23,000 to investigate contaminants linked to health problems from a site located at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board estimated it will require 120 hours and cost $23,400 to investigate polyfluoroalkys, also known as perfluorinated alkylated substances, or PFAS, located at Santa Maria Public Airport, according to a July 30 letter sent to the Santa Maria Public Airport District. 

The costs reflect those incurred for the investigation between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, according to the letter.

A report produced by a third party for the Water Board in June 2020 showed that PFAS chemicals were detected at multiple sites at the airport.

The substances are contained in aqueous film-forming foam, which is stored on-site at the airport and is used by the Santa Maria Fire Department to put out aircraft fuel fires.

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The California Water Resources Control Board began investigating whether PFAS contaminated groundwater and soil at all commercial airports in the state due to chemicals in the foam, which is still certified for use, according to Chris Hastert, general manager of the Santa Maria Public Airport. Money for the investigation was budgeted, he added.

"The results at our airport so far are comparatively low due to very few activities resulting in the use of [aqueous film-forming foam] at our facility," Hastert said, adding larger airports may not fare so well.

The Water Board cited Section 13365 of the California Water Code, which allows it to recover costs for an investigation involving release of hazardous substances.

An invoice specifying which employees, or how many, will be performing cleanup work was not attached to the letter, although costs can run as much as $195 an hour per employee.

Staff hours are calculated by the State Accounting System, according to the letter.