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Protect human health and the environment. AS 46.03.010, AS 44.46.020
- Protecting Human Health
- Protecting the Environment
|A: Result - Department Core Services|
|A1: Core Service - Protecting Human Health|
Target #2: No days when air is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Analysis of results and challenges: The data for the 2013 calendar year will be available in March 2014.
DEC has been collecting ambient air data in most major communities around the state for over 25 years. Air monitoring is performed to ensure compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards designed to protect public health. The U.S. EPA sets health based standards for particulate matter and gaseous pollutants. In the state, the pollutants of concern are carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter and coarse particulate matter. Violations of the standards occur when the concentration of air pollution rises above the limit either through natural events or through emissions from man-made sources. Natural pollution includes smoke from wild fires (fine particulate matter called PM2.5), ash from volcanic eruption or windblown dust from gravel bars and other exposed gravel surfaces (coarse particulate matter called PM10). Man-made pollution is produced by exhaust from combustion processes, such as diesel and gas vehicle emissions and emissions from home heating systems like wood stoves. Since 2000 no violations of the Carbon Monoxide (CO) standards have been recorded.
The chart shows the number of days the air quality was unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and people with heart or lung disease. The instances of natural pollution from 2005 were caused either by smoke from wildfires or windblown dust. Man-made pollution reflected in the above chart is primarily caused by combustion processes such as home heating in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The decrease in 2011 is mainly due to the lack of wintertime temperature inversions in Fairbanks, which in previous years trapped pollution close to the ground. In 2012 all man-made exceedances were recorded during the winter and 25 of the 26 events were recorded in Fairbanks. All 2012 natural exceedance events were due to windblown dust in the Matanuska Susitna Valley.
The State is working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough to evaluate the extent of the pollution problem and to tailor control strategies for elimination of the fine particulate problem within the Fairbanks bowl. More information about DEC’s air monitoring projects throughout the state can be found at http://www.dec.state.ak.us/air/am/index.htm.
Target #3: Increase the number and types of tests performed to support public health assessments.
Analysis of results and challenges: Testing volume in the Environmental Health Laboratory (EHL) continuously fluctuates as a result of a myriad of factors, including: an International Standards Organization (ISO) based Quality Management Program requiring increased Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) procedures, equipment requiring validation testing, parallel testing for procedure validations, and new staff training. The development of new tests can show significant peaks. Conversely, the EHL continues to pursue alternative analytical methods and technologies that would reduce the testing processes required to obtain a similar number of results. This provides efficiencies, increases sample capacity, and reduces sample submission error.
In FY2013, the EHL experienced spikes in processes for several reasons besides receiving over 1,000 more test requests than FY2012. Extensive method validations were performed to evaluate existing methods for use on proposed produce testing. In addition to new instruments implementations, numerous side-by-side comparisons were performed on the new High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) instruments designated for paralytic shellfish toxins (PST). The EHL has also begun capturing processes performed for analyst training as well as required internal QA/QC testing.
In FY2013, the EHL was audited by the Environmental Protection Agency for compliance as a primacy lab and the laboratory certification program in support of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The Food and Drug Administration National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) also audited the EHL to perform compliance testing for marine toxins (PST), shellfish growing waters, shellfish meat, and Vibrio. Work is continuing internally and with NSSP to transition to the new HPLC method for PST. The capacity for testing produce as well as cottage foods is now available at the EHL upon request. The EHL is underway on its efforts to obtain ISO 17025 accreditation by FY2017.
Target #4: 100% of serviceable rural Alaska homes are served by safe and sustainable sanitation facilities.
Analysis of results and challenges: The Village Safe Water (VSW) program continues to work to achieve its goal that 100% of year round occupied homes have access to piped, closed haul, or individual septic tanks/wells. This goal is limited to rural households in communities that have the financial, managerial, and technical capacity to properly operate a facility once it is built and where these types of systems are physically feasible.
The baseline year for this measure is FY2000 when 69% of rural homes were served by adequate sanitation systems. Compared to the 91% of households served in FY2013, this equates to a 22% increase or an annual average increase of 1.7%, which is lower than the program’s target of 2.5% per year. The pace of progress has slowed in recent years as federal and State funding for rural Alaska water and sewer projects has sharply declined. There was a one percent decrease in the number of homes reported as served between FY2012 and FY2013. This was not due to homes losing service but rather a change in the methodology for collecting housing data. VSW is transitioning to a map-based housing inventory tracking system, which is providing more accurate housing data to the program. Meeting the program’s target of an annual average increase of 2.5% in the number of rural Alaska homes served by adequate sanitation systems will be largely contingent upon an increase in current federal and State funding levels in upcoming years.
|A2: Core Service - Protecting the Environment|
Target #1: No new spills result in long-term remediation.
Percent of New Oil and Hazardous Substance Spills Not Needing Long-Term Remediation
Analysis of results and challenges: Rapid containment and cleanup of oil and hazardous substance spills reduces impacts to public safety, public health and the environment by reducing exposure to these contaminants. The Division of Spill Prevention and Response's goal is to control, contain, and remove spills as they occur in order to prevent extensive and costly damage to water sources, fish and wildlife, and adjoining properties. Only the largest and most technically complex spill cleanups, such as those that involve groundwater contamination, are turned over to the Contaminated Sites Program for long-term remediation. Data indicates that 19 spills, representing 1.03% of new spills in FY2013 will require long-term remediation.
Target #2: No polluted waters.
Analysis of results and challenges: The number of polluted waters is based on the Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report which Alaska is required to submit to the Environmental Protection Agency every two years under Clean Water Act section 305(b), including the latest report for 2012. Note that because of this two-year report cycle, this measure is updated every two years rather than annually. The number of polluted waters has slowly declined since FY2002, remaining relatively stable since FY2010. Generally, more waters have been restored than have become polluted during this period. In 2012 new waters were identified as impaired due to contaminated site investigations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and because of permit monitoring. These impaired waters included three waters associated with two historic mining sites, and an ore spill at an active mine. Recovery can be a result of the actions of the State, permit holders, landowners, or other responsible parties affecting the waterbody, as well as natural recovery over time.
The challenge in reducing the number of polluted waters is that pollution is dynamic. Even as polluted waterbodies are being restored, new waterbodies may become polluted due to the growth in Alaska’s population and the associated urban development. Pollution pressures are also being seen in rural areas that are heavily used for recreation, tourism, and fishing. Reducing the number of polluted waters by controlling pollution before it reaches the environment through wastewater discharge permits, best management practices, and controls for non-point source pollution (i.e., small sources that are not controlled by permits such as motor boats) is key. For non-point source pollution, successful restoration of a waterbody requires working with the local community to educate stakeholders on the impacts of pollution and the actions that are necessary to restore a waterbody to a healthy condition. The Department must also take action to restore those waters that become polluted despite its best pollution prevention efforts.
Target #3: Reduce the impacts of new and historical pollution to land and water.
Analysis of results and challenges: The number of polluted waters has slowly declined since FY2005. More waters have been restored than have become polluted during this period. The challenge in reducing the number of polluted waters is recognizing that pollution is a dynamic situation. Even as polluted waterbodies are being restored, new waterbodies may become polluted due to the growth in Alaska’s population and the associated urban development. Pollution pressures are also being seen in rural areas that are heavily used for recreation, tourism and fishing. The key to making progress in reducing the number of polluted waters is to control pollution before it reaches the environment through wastewater discharge permits, best management practices and other controls for non-point source pollution (i.e. small sources that are not controlled by permits such as motor boats).
The number of sites newly contaminated with oil or hazardous substances has declined overall since FY2005, while the total number of active contaminated sites continues to grow as new historical sites are discovered and transferred from the Spill Response Program to the Contaminated Sites Program within the Department’s Spill Prevention and Response Division. The complexity of existing projects and associated closures, the level of resources available to provide regulatory oversight and the cleanup itself continue to be challenges faced in closing and restoring sites for use by the public.
In FY2013, there were 66 contaminated waterbodies and 2,411 open historical contaminated sites. Three waterbodies and 153 historical contamination sites were restored.
Target #4: 100% of water facility, wastewater discharge, and air quality permit-holders are current and in compliance with permit requirements.
Analysis of results and challenges: The Department issues a variety of permits to help ensure operators are doing their part to help protect the environment and citizens from pollution. Each program monitors to ensure permit-holders are current and in compliance with the requirements of those permits through monitoring, inspections, and reviews of permit renewal applications.
For the water supply system operator certification program, which ensures operators have the qualifications necessary to meet the responsibility of safeguarding public health, a compliance rate of 83% was achieved in FY2013.
The water discharge program issues permits for domestic wastewater, seafood processing, fish hatcheries, mines, oil and gas facilities, and log-transfer facilities. The Department is in the process of taking over responsibility for these permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and while compliance is currently 91%, that rate is expected to fluctuate.
The air quality permit program requires major and some minor stationary sources’ compliance be tracked. Under federal compliance reporting, status reverts to “unknown” if compliance is not evaluated in the past two years for major sources or five years for minor sources. These sources are assumed to be in compliance for the purposes of this measure as the majority of the sources are minor sources. In FY2013, 95% were compliant.
Current as of December 4, 2013