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January 2020

Brussels Airport invests in the further improvement of the water quality

  • Water

An investment of €5 million

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In the winter, aircraft regularly have to be de-iced before departure. Ice forming on the wings and fuselage of an aircraft not only has a negative effect on its performance and consequently its fuel consumption, it is also downright dangerous. In order to de-ice the aircraft and prevent ice forming, the handler sprays the fuselage and wings of an aircraft before departure with a glycol-based de-icing liquid. The waste water produced during the de-icing operations is collected and purified in order to protect life in the surrounding waterways. For although glycol is not in itself harmful, it does extract oxygen from the surface water as it breaks down, which is detrimental to fauna and flora.

A complex project

De-icing aircraft at the gate is a time-consuming process, and so Brussels Airport wants to have as many passenger aircraft possible de-iced at a central location. This can be done on three platforms where aircraft are treated in turn before they taxi to the runway. Cargo aircraft are best de-iced on their stand on apron 9.

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Platform M at the end of pier A and platform 3 South were already connected directly to the waste water treatment plant. Until recently, the de-icing water from platform W was collected on site in underground reservoirs and then taken to the water purification plant for processing by tankers. There were as yet no facilities on apron 9 for collecting the de-icing water. In order to prevent any rainwater containing glycol from ending up in nearby streams, Brussels Airport Company decided to connect both platform W and apron 9 directly to the water purification plant. It was a project for which Brussels Airport Company allocated more than 5 million euro.

It was a complex project, not just because of its scale but because the work had to take place in the critical areas of the airport. Laying the pipelines to the water purification station took place simultaneously with the construction of gigantic pumping wells and demanded directional boring over considerable distances. To connect platform W with the purification plant, more than 3 kilometres of pipe were needed. This was because the pipes had to run around the runway instead of under it. An option that was investigated, but proved operationally infeasible.

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Selective disposal

During the de-icing season, the water that flows from these platforms is constantly monitored. The collectors have been equipped with a device that measures the Total Organic Carbon. Polluted water is sent to the water purification plant. Non-polluted water passes through the rainwater discharge to the retention basins from where it flows into the stream.

To allow de-icing water from platform W and apron 9 to be buffered, the water purification plant at Brussels Airport was expanded with two larger buffer tanks, one for highly polluted water and one for less polluted water. The existing buffer tank will be used for collecting sanitary waste water. An additional sanitary pipe has been laid from the terminal; this ensures that the water purification plant is ready for processing the future larger flows of sanitary waste water.

Unique in the world

In the summer, the glycol is used to purify the waste water. Because glycol acts as a carbon source in the biological process, we are able to use fewer chemicals.

The fact that during the de-icing season Brussels Airport collects the water that is discharged, constantly measures the quality of that water and purifies it in its own water purification plant is virtually unique in the world. Once again, Brussels Airport Company confirms its position as pioneer in sustainable airport management.

Efficient de-icing

The three de-icing platforms are in different areas of the airport. Which platform is used depends on which runway is being used.

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Letter M

Platform M (Mike)

Is the smallest platform. Here 1 NB or WB aircraft can be de-iced. This platform is located at the head of Pier A.

Letter W

Platform W (Whisky)

Is used when runway 01/19 is not in use. Whisky offers space for 2 smaller aircraft (narrow bodies or NB) or 1 jumbo jet (wide body or WB). It also has the shortest taxi times. Platform W is never used in combination with platform S.

Letter S

Platform 3 South

Is used for de-icing operations in the winter when runway 07R is in use. It consists of three stands on apron 3, namely 326 (NB) - 328 (WB) - 330 (NB) which the rest of the year are used as normal stands or washing stand.

Platform M (Mike)

Is the smallest platform. Here 1 NB or WB aircraft can be de-iced. This platform is located at the head of Pier A.

Platform W (Whisky)

Is used when runway 01/19 is not in use. Whisky offers space for 2 smaller aircraft (narrow bodies or NB) or 1 jumbo jet (wide body or WB). It also has the shortest taxi times. Platform W is never used in combination with platform S.

Platform 3 South

Is used for de-icing operations in the winter when runway 07R is in use. It consists of three stands on apron 3, namely 326 (NB) - 328 (WB) - 330 (NB) which the rest of the year are used as normal stands or washing stand.

 
 

11 new
de-icingtrucks

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To ensure that everything runs smoothly, Brussels Airport Company purchased eleven de-icing trucks, which are made available to the handlers. The trucks can drive and spray at the same time. Moreover, they can mix the product itself in the correct proportions, depending on how serious the ice deposit and weather forecasts are.

There are many advantages to this centralised approach: the available equipment can be deployed much more efficiently; the shorter taxiing times mean that less product is needed to keep the aircraft ice-free until they take off and the time saved is considerable. De-icing a plane at the gate takes on average 20 minutes; doing this centrally cuts the de-icing time to an average of 5 minutes.

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