Honors Gallery

NoFoam System for environmentally safe firefighting foam testing

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2011

Award Type:

Region: Far West

Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC)

The universal NoFoam System has been developed by engineers at the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC). NoFoam provides an environmentally safe method for testing performance of fire-suppression foam distribution systems onboard aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicles. Firefighting guidelines and policies require quarterly and annual performance checks on ARFF vehicle firefighting systems. These involve discharging a significant volume of fire suppression foam to verify that the delivery system is functioning properly, thereby ensuring operational readiness when the equipment is called on to save lives and property.

Despite the widespread use of foam for its effectiveness extinguishing hydrocarbon fuel fires, the foam wastewater is associated with environmental concerns, including questions about its long-term impact. The foam has high biological and chemical oxygen demands and extreme foaming action. The Environmental Protection Agency identifies potential fish toxicity, a lack of biodegradability, poor treatability in wastewater treatment plants, and nutrient loading in natural or domestic water systems. These environmental issues result in high costs for disposal and treatment of foam-laden wastewater, prompting NFESC engineers to seek a solution. Their efforts yielded an environmentally safe testing method that also supports equipment training opportunities and builds firefighter confidence and readiness.

NFESC technology transfer specialists utilized an environmentally oriented Navy equipment program to promote the transition of units into Navy use, increasing awareness and interest in the technology. Presently, the NoFoam System technology has been implemented for firefighting vehicle testing at 28 Department of Defense locations, including Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army installations. The Australian Department of Defence has purchased NoFoam Systems for its entire fleet of ARFF vehicles, which were scheduled for completion of the retrofitting process by the end of 2010.