Compressed Air Foam System for Hazmat Decontamination
Biological Warfare or Domestic Bioremediation

S u r v i v a b i l i t y / V u l n e r a b i l i t y I n f o r m a t i o n A n a l y s i s C e n t e r

Cleared for Public Release - Distribution Unlimited

Volume XVII Issue 2 - 2001

The Pentagon in flames just minutes after a hijacked jetliner crashed into the building on September 11, 2001

Fire Suppression Technology Applied To Chemical/Biological Warfare Protection

In 1999, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren (NSWCDD) entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Cummins Industries, Inc. of Joshua, Texas. The objective of the CRADA was to assess the compatibility of the NSWCDD-developed Quaternary Ammonium Complex (QAC) decontaminant with Cummins Industries’ fire fighting compressed air foam system (CAFS). (See SURVIAC Current Awareness Bulletins Vol XIV, No. 1 and Vol XV, Issue 3, Fall 1999.)

Development of the QAC decontaminant was also sponsored in part by the Office of Naval Research and by the Joint Science and Technology Panel for Chemical and Biological Defense, under the Decontamination Commodity Area of the Joint Service Materiel Group. Cummins Industries owns the original US Patents for the invention of CAFS.

QAC/CAFS Technology

The QAC decontaminant has the ability to neutralize chemical and biological agents without the severe disadvantages of the currently used decontaminants, namely DS2 and the hypochlorite's.

The technology is based on an amino-alcohol solvent system. The decontaminant has been shown to be noncorrosive and compatible with materials damaged by the currently used decontaminants (for example, butyl rubber gloves and painted surfaces) while still neutralizing the chemical agents. Toxicity tests have shown the product to be approximately 30 times less toxic than the US Army standard, DS2. The new product is environmentally friendly and the product itself is nonflammable. It is easily removed from surfaces with water.

The QAC decontaminant agent potentially may be used with a compressed air foam system (CAFS) for suppression of Class A and B of fires. CAFS foam requires less water to control comparable fires, thus there is less runoff and a greater coverage for a given on-board capacity. The CAFS foam generating method works with any environmentally friendly foaming agent and makes a smaller celled, more effective fire extinguishing foam blanket than the most commonly used military foaming agent aqueous fine film foam (AFFF) which is more expensive and contains an environmentally hazardous product. The system offers an emergency response vehicle the dual capability to extinguish fires more effectively and to neutralize toxic products such as stored chemicals and terrorist chemical/biological agents, and possibly even reduce the toxic by-products produced by fire and spread by smoke and water run-off. It is an integrated CAFS/QAC decontaminant system that provides emergency responders with effective, efficient, and environment-friendly capabilities.

Advantages and benefits of the QAC/CAFS technology include the following:

· Neutralizes chemical/biological accidental discharges or terrorist-type releases,

· Can be used before exposure to toxic products to prevent contamination,

· Highly effective against biological agents including spores,

· Non-corrosive and environmentally friendly,

· Fills voids and hard to reach areas that are inaccessible to spray or brush applications,

· Covers large areas of contamination with long hose lines and minimum manpower,

· Provides a method to apply the decontamination products from a safe stand-off position,

· Adheres to non-horizontal surfaces,

· Visual confirmation of treated areas,

· Reduces collateral contamination from runoff,

· High coverage/volume ratio with foam,

· More uniform application of decontamination products,

· Remediate's a broad class of pesticides for  environmental cleanup,

· Contains no volatile organic, halogenated, or fluorinated compounds,

· Potentially effective fire fighting foam for Class A (ordinary combustibles) and Class B ( burning liquids) fires which can be used to replace the harmful AFFF products,

· Limits collateral damage from fluid runoff, particulate matter, and vapor escape from fire fighting activity.

DoD Needs

The QAC/CAFS technology addresses a number of DoD needs. First among these is the need for a chemical/biological agent decontaminant that is noncorrosive, nontoxic, nonflammable and environmentally friendly. Current decontaminants can damage a variety of materials and pose serious environmental and health hazards.

The QAC/CAFS technology is effective against all agents, stable in storage, usable on all surfaces and materials, and reduces transport, storage and use issues associated with current decontaminants. In addition, the QAC/CAFS foam is well suited for aerial application. This feature will allow for rapid intervention in the event of an aerosol release (i.e., from a crop duster aircraft).

In the event that the QAC/CAFS foam is used in this manner, a secondary benefit of the air drop is that the "hot zone" will be visually marked with the foam. This will be useful information for any ground personnel.

Another need addressed by the QAC/CAFS technology includes the growth of mildew, fungus, and bacteria on interior surfaces of operational helicopters. This is an extensive Navy problem, particularly with aging aircraft. Interior aircraft surfaces are often inaccessible for cleaning and removal of these organic contaminants results in significant aircraft down-time. Standard cleaning methods are not effective. Mildew, fungus, and bacteria are suspected of deteriorating protective paint films, promoting corrosion, and causing an unhealthy atmosphere for flight crews.

CAFS decontaminate foam can be forced into small openings to fill voids from top to bottom with the solution. The QAC/CAFS technology provides the capability for large area decontamination and can be used before exposure to toxic products in order to prevent contamination.

QAC/CAFS can also be adapted to help meet other defense requirements, such as thermal protection from radiation and camouflage from heat seeking weapons.

QAC/CAFS Technology Can Reduce Decontamination Costs

The technology has the potential for cost savings in a variety of areas, including Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) decontamination techniques available for weapons systems and equipment, pollution prevention, and environmental restoration.

Existing procedures for the decontamination of chemical protective masks, protective clothing and other items of equipment are inefficient and fail to remove all traces of deadly chemical agents. These agents permeate into the materials they contact and, unless completely removed, continue to off-gas into the environment even after decontamination. In addition, the Army uses wet chemistry (bubbler) technologies to detect and monitor the presence of chemical agents. These technologies result in costly processing and disposal of the chemistry components (annual costs for handling, processing and disposal are estimated at $2M).

Further, the Army uses many carbon filtration systems in its chemical storage activities. The decontamination process for spent carbon is highly regulated and requires incineration and land disposal at considerable cost. Current technologies for decontamination, such as DS2 (caustic) and Super Tropical Bleach (corrosive), have been shown to cause damage, including rendering completely unusable, some weapon system parts and equipment (e.g., generators) not coated in a chemical agent resistive coating (CARC). The QAC/CAFS technology provides an alternative, more environmentally-friendly, operationally-acceptable replacement for current decontamination technologies, which will help reduce equipment repair and replacement costs.

From the pollution prevention perspective, the technology offers a more environmentally suitable process for decontamination of materials and equipment. Residuals from cleaning with this technology would be less toxic and require less treatment. The technology is also less corrosive than existing technologies and would cause less damage to equipment, thereby reducing replacement and maintenance costs.

The technology has similar benefits for environmental restoration of soils and debris contaminated with chemical and biological agents. One recent application of the CAFS system was as a bioremediation system to apply oil eating microbes to a gasoline pipeline release in Texas. The CAFS 230 Unit was used to apply 4,000 gallons of microbe foam concentrate to remediate 82,000 gallons of gasoline released from the ruptured pipeline. The gasoline spill covered 15 acres. Any forest animal within 3 feet of the ground died from the vapors.

To address this leakage problem, the entire spill area was covered with approximately 4 inches of hydrocarbon eating microbe foam using a thousand-foot long hose lay. The foam blanket sealed the vapors and stopped the problem. Before the CAFS decontamination, the bodies of the dead animals were decaying and emitting a foul odor. Their skin was polluted with the benzene from the fuel. This made the scavengers eat contaminated food. After the CAFS decontamination, there was no odor except the light perfume in the foam. In addition, all the dead animals were washed clean. This was a great improvement. In addition, there was no run-off of the CAFS foam which is one of the advantages of its utilization.

The alternative to using the CAFS bioremediation process for this incident was to have the 15 acres of forested land dug up and transported to a licensed landfill that could accept the polluted soil. This would have been cost prohibitive and would only have move the contaminated soil from one location to another. Other cost saving features include:

· The QAC/CAFS method of generating foam requires half as much foaming agent to produce twice as much dense vapor sealing foam and has been proven to extinguish more fire in less time than present military foam systems.

· The QAC/CAFS technology uses less expensive and more environmentally friendly foaming agents.

· The QAC/CAFS equipment can be added onto existing fire fighting vehicles to upgrade their capability and requires minimum training.

· QAC/CAFS permits sub-surface injection of decontamination products to efficiently cleanup difficult environmental projects.

Potential Commercial Uses

Potential commercial uses of the QAC/CAFS technology include the following:

· Cleaning material/equipment contaminated with chemical or biological agents,

· Remediation of contaminated soil/water,

· Response by local/municipal hazardous waste response teams,

· Response by SWAT teams to chemical/biological threats,

· Fighting fires that involve chemical and biological materials, and

· A cleaning product for home use.

For more information, please contact

Matt Kolleck, (937) 431-2702 or


SURVIAC is a U.S. Department of Defense Information Analysis Center (IAC) sponsored by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC).