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: 2% annual increase in the number of regulated systems that 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: 100% of 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: 100% of 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: 2% annual increase in the number of regulated systems that 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 FY2013, 5203 out of 624 systems, or 83.3%, 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 it is related most directly to public health. 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. The OC exceeded the target of 2% increase in compliance during FY2013, and the five year average increase in compliance is greater than 4%, well above the target. Frequent turnover of system operators remains a significant hurdle towards further increasing compliance rates, as do rising travel costs which inhibit operator travel to training required for certification. To that end, during FY2013, the OC program revised a compliance and enforcement manual and increased outreach to system owners regarding operator compliance. In addition, the OC Program initiated development of a new certification strategy which will be completed and implemented during FY2014. The new strategy will include additional outreach to system owners and operators, as well as increased technical assistance opportunities.
    
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 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 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.

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) 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 instrument 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 EHL retained a status of Full Certification by EPA. 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. The EHL is in Conformance to the NSSP checklist. 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.

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 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.

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 less 100%.

Percent of New Oil and Hazardous Substance Spills Not Needing Long-Term Remediation
Fiscal Year New Spills Reported Long-Term Remediation Percent Remediated
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 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.

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. 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.

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 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.

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 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 13, 2013