Protect water quality and assist communities in improving sanitation conditions.
- Identify, abate, and control water pollution in a cost effective, accountable manner to protect public health and preserve the many uses of Alaska's waters.
- Assist communities in providing sustainable water, sewer, and solid waste services in full regulatory compliance.
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|A: Result - Identify, abate, and control water pollution in a cost effective, accountable manner to protect public health and preserve the many uses of Alaska's waters.|
|A1: Core Service - Identify, abate, and control water pollution in a cost effective, accountable manner to protect public health and preserve the many uses of Alaska's waters.|
Target #2: All dischargers managed by the State have current permits/authorizations.
Current Water Discharge Permits and Authorizations
Analysis of results and challenges: In 2008, the Department of Environmental Conservation began assuming primacy to administer the surface water discharge permitting program in Alaska, with certain exclusions (e.g., EPA retains authority to permit in Denali National Park, Metlakatla, and all 301(h) waiver facilities including the Municipality of Anchorage's discharge from their Asplund Facility). The department inherited an extensive backlog of expired permits from EPA. Per the Clean Water Act, the maximum term for surface water discharge permits is five years. However, both EPA and the department have the regulatory authority to administratively extend a permit beyond its expiration date, which allows the permittee to continue to discharge legally while an updated permit is completed. The Department's goal is to increase the percentage of current permits each year, ensuring that discharges to Alaska's surface and ground waters have permits with protective standards and do not pose risks to human health or aquatic life.
Overall, the Department's percentage of current permits is significantly greater than the percentage EPA was able to maintain while administering the program in Alaska. The variability from year to year results from the fact that a single general permit can have hundreds of authorizations under the cover of the general permit. When high-authorization general permits get administratively extended, it can drastically impact the number considered current for this measure. Additionally, the number of authorizations under general permits changes from year to year since many discharges are temporary in nature such as construction stormwater. The Department has largely stabilized this value at an average of 84 percent over the past five fiscal years. This level is among the higher values provided by other states across the nation. In FY2019, the Department moved to the more contentious and complex general permits which require substantial staff time to address public comments and informal review requests. Variability in the total number of permits largely reflects the number of general construction permits issued in a year, which are temporary in nature and trend with economic considerations. After assuring that new dischargers are permitted, the second focus of the program is on general permits, because a large number of facilities in Alaska are covered by general permits.
Target #3: All inspected facilities have performed follow-up actions required by inspection reports.
Analysis of results and challenges: A facility inspection report documents areas of permit non-compliance. Areas of non-compliance are further expanded upon in enforcement responses, both formal and informal, which identify the actions a permittee must complete to come into compliance. The enforcement response requires that the permittee take corrective actions by a specified timeline and notify the State once those actions have been taken.
When there is a threat to human health or the environment as the result of non-compliance, the Department of Environmental Conservation schedules an immediate follow-up inspection to verify that actions taken by the permittee fully address the identified areas of non-compliance. Most often, Department staff use collaborative communication with permittees to develop compliance schedules that are protective of the environment and to ensure that compliance is achieved as expeditiously as possible. For permittees who fail to report follow-up actions and/or where continued non-compliance poses a threat to human health or the environment, staff first contact the permittee to determine if the permittee failed to report, or if there is a reason the permittee was unable to comply. If the permittee fails to resolve the non-compliance, the Department will follow an escalated response up to, and including, formal enforcement action, consistent with the Department's Enforcement Manual. The Department uses a Schedule of Compliance to allow staff to determine if facilities have complied with follow-up actions and then take appropriate actions in regard to the non-compliance.
In FY2020, the Division of Water inspected 169 facilities, an increase of 35 facilities over the previous year. Of the facilities with completed inspection reports, 78 received inspection reports that required follow-up actions. Of facilities where follow-up actions were required, 78% of the permittees performed the follow-up actions and 22% are still pending. This is an increase of two percent from the previous year, which is within the expected yearly deviation and the consistency can largely be attributed to full staffing within the Compliance program in FY2020, and a well-developed enforcement response, including formal enforcement actions and penalties. Given the larger number of inspections in FY2020, there are a number of pending follow-up actions in process that are not yet completed as of the date the data was collected. Of the 17 facilities which have pending enforcement action deliverables, two have effective enforcement agreements while four are currently in formal enforcement proceedings.
|B: Result - Assist communities in providing sustainable water, sewer, and solid waste services in full regulatory compliance.|
|B1: Core Service - Assist communities in providing sustainable water, sewer, and solid waste services in full regulatory compliance.|
Target #1: 85% of regulated systems comply with drinking water supply system operator certification requirements.
Analysis of results and challenges: The State's Operator Certification program classifies water systems based on the size and complexity of a system and determines whether operators have experience and knowledge commensurate with the system's classification. Certification validates that water system operators have the qualifications necessary to safeguard public health. The Operator Certification program offers training and administers examinations to assist operators with achieving certification.
Although the Operator Certification 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 those systems are not subject to Operator Certification requirements.
The program places an emphasis on notifying systems of certification requirements, increasing the availability of exams for operators, and promoting operator training opportunities. Through these efforts, the percentage of systems employing properly certified operators has remained greater than 80% for the past ten years. Several factors affect compliance rates, including frequent turnover of system operators, rising travel costs which inhibit operator travel to certification training, and increasing complexity of systems which drives up the certification requirements. Recognizing that full compliance is unlikely given these challenges, the program has adopted 85% compliance as the target to achieve and maintain. In FY2020, the compliance rate dropped from the prior year and the program fell slightly short of the target. In addition to current efforts, the program is moving forward with initiatives that will improve outreach to systems and increase technical assistance opportunities for operators. As these new initiatives are developed and implemented, the program anticipates a further increase in the number of systems with properly certified operators.
Target #2: All serviceable rural Alaska homes are served by safe and sustainable sanitation facilities.
Analysis of results and challenges: The Village Safe Water (VSW) program continues its work to achieve the goal that 100% of year-round occupied homes have access to in-home running water and sewer. This service has historically been provided by centralized piped, closed haul systems, 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 97% of households served in FY2020, this equates to a total increase of 28% over 20 years. The pace of progress has slowed in recent years as the cost of constructing centralized systems in unserved communities has escalated. Additionally, an increasing share of total available funding has been needed in recent years to pay for necessary upgrades to existing water and sewer systems, making less funds available for constructing systems that will provide first-time service to homes. There was a one percent decrease in the number of homes reported as served between FY2012 and FY2013, and again between FY2015 and FY2016. These changes were not due to homes losing service but rather changes in the methodology for collecting housing data. VSW and partner organizations are transitioning to a map-based housing inventory tracking system, which provides more accurate housing data. It should be noted that this estimate excludes homes and communities 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.
Current as of December 24, 2020