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.
This metric reflects the effort to ensure 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 in the percentages from FY2011 to FY2019 is largely due to changes in the number of general permits that are current and not administratively extended, and the department has largely stabilized this value around the high 80s over the past five fiscal years. This level is among the higher values provided by other states across the nation. 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. Staffing reductions in the permitting program as a result of budget reductions also impact the number of current permits, particularly reissuance of individual permits, although, the Division of Water is actively working to improve processes to mitigate these impacts.
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 noncompliance 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 Division of Water schedules an immediate follow-up inspection to verify that actions taken by the permittee fully address the identified areas of non-compliance. Most often, Water Quality 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 noncompliance 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 noncompliance, the department will follow an escalated response up to, and including, formal enforcement action, consistent with the department’s Enforcement Manual. The Compliance program 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 FY2019, the Division of Water inspected 134 facilities, a decrease of 28 facilities. An additional 13 inspections were conducted as either joint EPA/department inspections or with EPA as the lead agency. Of the facilities with completed inspection reports (excluding joint/EPA inspections), 110 received inspection reports that required follow-up actions. Of facilities where follow-up actions were required, 80% of the permittees performed the follow-up actions and 20% are still pending. This is a decrease of 20 percent from the previous year which can largely be attributed to full staffing within the Compliance Program in FY2019, a well-developed enforcement response including formal enforcement actions and penalties. Given the larger number of inspections in FY2019, 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 13 facilities which have pending enforcement action deliverables, three 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: Certification validates that Water System Operators have the qualifications necessary to safeguard public health. 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. 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 Operator Certification 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 nine 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 FY2019, the compliance rate improved over FY2018, but the program fell slightly short of the 85% 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 FY2019, this equates to a total increase of 28% over 19 years. The pace of progress has slowed in recent years as federal and State funding for rural Alaska water and sewer projects has sharply declined, and 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 13, 2019