Performance Details

Department of Environmental Conservation

Mission

Protect human health and the environment. AS 46.03.010, AS 44.46.020

Core Services

  • Protecting Human Health
  • Protecting the Environment

Arrow GraphicResults

Core Services
A: Department Core Services  Details >
A1: Protecting Human Health  Details >
  • TARGET #1: 85% of regulated systems comply with drinking water supply system operator certification requirements.
  • TARGET #2: No days when air is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
  • TARGET #3: Increase the number and types of tests performed to support public health assessments.
  • TARGET #4: All serviceable rural Alaska homes are served by safe and sustainable sanitation facilities.
A2: Protecting the Environment  Details >
  • TARGET #1: No new spills result in long-term remediation.
  • TARGET #3: Reduce the impacts of new and historical pollution to land and water.
  • TARGET #4: All water facility, wastewater discharge, and air quality permit-holders are current and in compliance with permit requirements.

Performance Detail


A: Result - Department Core Services

A1: Core Service - Protecting Human Health
    
Target #1: 85% of regulated systems comply with drinking water supply system operator certification requirements.

Methodology: The number of water supply systems that employ an operator certified at the correct level is divided by the total number of water supply systems that are subject to this requirement. This calculation yields a decimal, which is multiplied by 100 to arrive at a percentage of water supply systems that are in compliance with this requirement. In FY2014, 526 out of 625 systems, or 84.1%, were in compliance with this requirement.

Analysis of results and challenges: Certification of water system operators validates that they have the qualifications necessary to safeguard public health. The state’s Operator Certification (OC) program classifies water systems based on system size and complexity and determines whether operators have experience and knowledge commensurate with the system’s classification. In order to assist operators with achieving certification, the OC program offers training and administers examinations.

Although the OC program oversees certification in water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment, and wastewater collection, this measure is limited to drinking water supply system certification as public health is most closely related to drinking water safety. This measure also excludes systems with less than 25 users or systems where users obtain water on a house by house basis (private wells or rain catchments) since these systems are not subject to operator certification requirements.

The OC program has increased the access to training by offering free contracted training and reimbursement to operators for expenses associated with attending training, and has seen an average annual increase of 4% over the last five years. Frequent turnover of system operators remains a significant hurdle towards increasing compliance rates, as do rising travel costs which inhibit operator travel to training required for certification. To that end, the OC Program started developing of a new certification strategy which will be completed and implemented during FY2015. The new strategy will include additional outreach to system owners and operators, as well as increased technical assistance opportunities. Recognizing that full compliance is unlikely given staff turnover, the program has adopted 85% as the target to attain and maintain.
    
Target #2: No days when air is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Methodology: Data is calculated using sampling information from samplers in the Municipality of Anchorage, City and Borough of Juneau, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the Mat-Su Valley.

Analysis of results and challenges: The data for the 2014 calendar year will be available in March 2015.

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 fine particulate PM2.5 pollution is produced by exhaust from combustion processes, such as diesel and gas vehicle emissions and emissions from home heating systems like wood stoves. Man-made coarse particulate (PM10) pollution is produced by road sanding materials that are entrained during wind events, road sweeping, or thaw and freeze cycles in winter. 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 decrease in 2011 was due primarily to the absence of wintertime temperature inversions in Fairbanks, which in other years traps pollution close to the ground. In 2013, all man-made exceedances were recorded during the winter and 22 of the 24 events were recorded in Fairbanks. The 2013 natural exceedance event was due to smoke from wild land fires in the interior of Alaska.

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.

Related links:
   • 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.

Methodology: All tests performed by the lab are logged and tracked from sample receipt through final testing and reporting.

Analysis of results and challenges: Testing volume in the Environmental Health Laboratory (EHL) annually 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 FY2014, the number of tests requested increased over 12% and the number of tests subcontracted to other laboratories decreased 55% from FY2013. This means that there was more work kept in-state and performed at the EHL, which contributes to a 9% increase to tests still in process. Despite the increased test requests, the number of processes for FY2014 decreased nearly 2%. More tests with fewer processes is the result of changes in procedures, methods, and/or instruments to increase efficiency while still providing quality data for regulatory compliance. One example of such a change was the implementation of a genetic test for Vibrio from a process intensive cultural microbiology method. This change alone decreased the number of processes by almost 1,000 in performing annual proficiency tests.
    
Target #4: All serviceable rural Alaska homes are served by safe and sustainable sanitation facilities.

Methodology: Total number of serviceable housing units divided by total number of homes connected for service.

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 92% of households served in FY2014, this equates to a 25% increase or an annual average increase of 1.8%, 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. In FY2014, additional communities were transitioned to the new tracking system. This, in addition to the completion of several multi-phased projects, resulted in a 1% increase in the estimated number of homes served. It should be noted that this estimate excludes homes currently deemed as “unserviceable” by federal funding agencies and includes homes in larger communities that are eligible for federal funding but ineligible for VSW funding.

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 challenging in the current funding environment.

A2: Core Service - Protecting the Environment
    
Target #1: No new spills result in long-term remediation.

Methodology: Percent of new spills not needing long-term remediation is determined each year by dividing the new spills needing long-term remediation by the total number of new spills reported in the fiscal year 100% less.

Percent of New Oil and Hazardous Substance Spills Not Needing Long-Term Remediation
Fiscal Year New Spills Reported Long-Term Remediation Percent Remediated
FY 2014
1,939
18
99.07%
FY 2013
1,850
19
98.97%
FY 2012
1,909
27
98.59%
FY 2011
1,651
20
98.79%
FY 2010
1,740
8
99.54%
FY 2009
2,164
6
99.72%
FY 2008
2,019
15
99.26%
FY 2007
2,312
43
98.14%

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 Prevention and Emergency Response program'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. In FY2014, only 18 spills, or 0.93% of new spills, will require long-term remediation.
    
Target #2: No polluted waters.

Methodology: The number of polluted waters is based on the Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report which Alaska is required to submit to the EPA every 2 years under Clean Water Act section 305(b). In this Report, the polluted waters are broken into two categories – impaired waters with a recovery plan (category 4) and impaired waters without a recovery plan (category 5). The list of category 5 impaired waters is also subject to EPA approval under Clean Water Act section 303(d). In previous year’s operating budgets, this performance measure only counted category 5 impaired waters. However, total polluted waters for all reporting years have changed to count both category 4 and 5 waters, since waters in both categories do not meet water quality standards, although category 4 waters are improving as recovery plans are implemented.

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, which is awaiting EPA approval. Note that because of this two-year report cycle, this measure is updated every two years rather than annually, and we anticipate the preliminary report for 2014 will be available in early 2015. 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. Although EPA’s approval of the 2012 Integrated Report is pending, the Report concludes that the trend of more waters being restored than becoming polluted continues.

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, education, best management practices, and controls for nonpoint source pollution (i.e., small sources that are not controlled by permits such as motor boats) is key. For nonpoint 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.

Methodology: This measure includes data related to Category 4 and Category 5 polluted waters that were restored each fiscal year as well as active contamination sites that were closed or restored for use during the same fiscal year.

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 FY2014, there were 66 contaminated waterbodies and 2,320 open historical contaminated sites. Three waterbodies and 149 historical contamination sites were restored.
    
Target #4: All water facility, wastewater discharge, and air quality permit-holders are current and in compliance with permit requirements.

Methodology: Data includes operator certifications, water discharge permits, and air quality permits.

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 84% was achieved in FY2014.

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 85%, 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 FY2014, 95% were compliant.

 

Current as of November 10, 2014