Environmental Management

Monitoring and minimizing the environmental impact of airport operations is important to Hamilton International. The Airport’s Environmental Mission Statement is as follows:

Hamilton International Airport is committed to protecting the environment and to
safeguarding the health of its employees, business partners and the general public.

The aviation industry is highly regulated by both Transport Canada and the provincial Ministry of the Environment. Hamilton International works closely with both organizations to ensure responsible and thorough environmental management of the Airport to meet governmental standards. For more information on Glycol Management and PFOS please see below:

Glycol Management:


John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport has an Environmental Management Plan which includes the management of de-icing/anti-icing solutions applied to aircraft during the winter season. These solutions are sprayed on aircraft to remove or prevent accumulation of snow and/or ice and is essential for the safe operation of aircraft during the winter season. One of the main components of the Environmental Management Plan is the management and monitoring of glycol use. During this time period there may be correlating odours.

Glycol Types

There are 2 types of commonly used glycol products for de-icing operations, Propylene Glycol (PG) and Ethylene Glycol (EG). Both PG and EG products are biodegradable and do not bio-accumulate in the environment. Propylene glycol is commonly found in food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. Hamilton International is currently using Propylene Glycol which has a relatively low toxicity to mammals and breaks down in the natural environment quicker than Ethylene Glycol.

There are 2 variations of PG used in winter operations, Type I (de-ice) and Type IV (anti-ice).

  • Type I is a diluted product, a mixture of water/glycol which is applied to the aircraft hot and removes snow and ice accumulations on aircraft surfaces

  • Type IV is applied after Type I to prevent icing during take-off.

Alternative methods such as brushing off snow are used to minimize the use of glycol products but is dependent on the weather conditions at the time.

Glycol Operations

During the winter months, de-icing fluid is applied to the exterior of an aircraft on designated de-icing pads (see Figure 1). Once the aircraft leaves this designated area a vacuum vehicle is dispatched and collects the excess glycol. These collected liquids are stored in holding tanks and the contents are removed offsite though a waste management contractor for recycling and re-use. Small amounts of low concentration residual glycol are collected through isolated catch basins which are directed to holding ponds/tanks. Depending on conditions, the residual glycol may also be absorbed into snow which is then pushed to designated snow piling areas. As this snow melts, this also drains into the holding ponds. Water samples from these ponds and the surrounding creeks are collected and tested regularly to monitor the concentration of glycol as per an agreement with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Holding ponds at Hamilton International are monitored and tested on a regular basis and when admissible, water from the ponds is diverted to either the local sanitary system or creeks. However, before discharge occurs, the holding ponds may produce odours from biodegradation which is similar to that of a natural pond with decomposing organic material. Glycol operations are authorized on four (4) de-icing pads on the airfield (outlined in green below). There are currently three (3) active low concentration ponds/tanks (outlined in blue below) in operation and one (1) inactive pond (outlined in yellow below).

Figure 1: Location of de-icing pads and glycol storage areas

Glycol Management Partners

Hamilton International manages the dispensing and removal of glycol products and works in partnership with the City of Hamilton, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) to ensure proper environmental management. Hamilton International strives to be a good neighbour and has agreements in place with the above-mentioned organizations to ensure best practices are conducted for environmental compliance programs.

For a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), please click here.

For additional information, please contact odours@flyhamilton.ca.


PFOS and the Use of Firefighting Foam at Hamilton International:

  • Transport Canada regulations require airport operators to maintain an inventory of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) on-site in the event of an aircraft emergency
  • At one time, Perfulorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) was a common component of aviation firefighting foam prior to a voluntary phase-out in production of PFOS in 2002. Information available suggests that AFFF containing PFOS was used at Hamilton Airport for training purposes between 1985 and 1989; during this time the Airport was federally owned and operated by the region.
  • Due to environmental concerns, the federal government initiated a plan to eliminate products containing PFOS by 2013; Hamilton International was in compliance with this
  • Firefighting foam purchased by Hamilton International does not contain PFOS and is compliant with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  • There has never been an aircraft fire at Hamilton International and ‘live’ fire training using AFFF has not taken place at the Airport since 1994 (when the Airport was municipally-operated and federally owned)
PFOS Updates:

Initial Subsurface Investigation Complete

December 2011 – Hamilton International Airport, in consultation with the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and City of Hamilton, has completed the initial subsurface investigation to confirm the presence and extent of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination on airport property and identify remediation options. Hamilton International is committed to full, open disclosure of all matters pertaining to this issue. We are posting below our consultant’s findings and expert opinion on remedial options.

May 2018 – Since 2011, Hamilton International Airport has been working with various levels of government to understand and address impacts associated with historical activities conducted at the former fire-fighting training area located on the Airport property. The Airport has continued to work with various levels of government for the appropriate solution.

In March 2018, the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) affirmed that no PFOS-related parameters were detected in surface water samples at the property boundary above applicable regulatory guidelines. The MOECC also affirmed that recent groundwater samples collected from 24 monitoring wells located along the Airport property boundary exhibited no PFOS-related parameters above applicable regulatory guidelines. To support the ongoing efforts on this matter, the Airport retained a specialized environmental consultant who has in-depth expertise in the assessment of PFOS-related parameters. A plan has been developed to support ongoing monitoring and, if needed, additional remedial effort.

September 2019, Working in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), TradePort, the City of Hamilton and the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport have finalized a Preventive Measures Order (a “PMO”) to address environmental impacts associated with Transport Canada’s historical firefighting practices. The PMO is a critical milestone in our nearly decade-long and on-going effort to address legacy impacts from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or “PFAS”), which were the active ingredient used in firefighting foams. The PMO allows TradePort and the Hamilton Airport to take the necessary action to address the impacted soil, sediment and surface water, and to prevent future off-site migration of PFAS associated with the former firefighting training area.

Working jointly with the Ministry we developed and, as of September 16, 2019, has implemented, a Mitigation Plan that calls for:

  • the dewatering and restoration of an existing stormwater retention pond;
  • excavation and long-term containment of PFAS-impacted soil and sediment; and
  • the creation of a capped area on the former fire-fighting training area.

Following construction of the capped area, we will conduct ongoing monitoring and inspections programs to demonstrate that the PFAS contamination is mitigated. In addition, TradePort will continue with the long-term groundwater and sediment monitoring as a conservative measure of due diligence.

This collaborative process with the Ministry to address legacy impacts from Transport Canada has allowed TradePort and the City of Hamilton to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to public safety and the protection of the environment.

The Airport will continue to work with various levels of government in a collaborative and proactive manner to address impacts associated with historical activities at the Airport.

For additional information, please contact PFOS@flyhamilton.ca.

Initial Subsurface Investigation