Provide Alaskans with clear standards so that they can protect our environment and provide safe food and drinking water.
- Achieve environmental protection by requiring appropriate management of Alaska's landfills and safe pesticide use.
- Protect public health with regulated food, seafood, and public facilities.
- Provide laboratory testing services, analytical and technical information for assessment of risks to public health, welfare, and the environment.
- Verify safe drinking water and compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|Mission Results||Core Services|
|A: Result - Achieve environmental protection by requiring appropriate management of Alaska's landfills and safe pesticide use.|
|A1: Core Service - Achieve environmental protection by requiring appropriate management of Alaska's landfills and safe pesticide use.|
Target #2: Class III village landfills inspected have an average inspection score of 80% or greater using the Waste Index inspection form.
Analysis of results and challenges: Class III community landfills accept less than five tons of solid waste per day. These landfills are typically located in small, remote communities and pose distinct regulatory and compliance challenges. The Department of Environmental Conservation has worked for the past decade to regulate these small landfills, and to provide the technical assistance necessary to allow each community to effectively overcome the specific challenges posed by its landfill.
Inspections are the primary tool available for evaluating regulatory compliance, and the on-site time during the inspection is when technical assistance is most easily provided. Inspections are scored using the Waste Index Inspection Form which tracks 34 different categories related to landfill operations and scores each category via comparison to a series of incremental steps. The Waste Index allows inspectors to easily and consistently evaluate the operations and management of Class III landfills while the incremental steps provide the landfill operator with clear guidance as to what changes can be made to improve landfill operations and achieve increased compliance with the regulations.
The Department has completed Waste Index inspections at 179 of the 184 Class III landfills, and during FY2020, conducted 24 repeat inspections at Class III landfills. In FY2020, the average Waste Index inspection score was 73% with 22 landfills showing an increased score and 2 landfills showing a decreased score. The average increase was 9.7 percent, the average decrease was 6 percent, and the FY2020 scores averaged 8.4 percent higher than the previous score at each of the inspected landfills. The two inspections conducted in consecutive years documented an average increase of 17 percent in the inspection score.
In an average year, the department can inspect 40-50 facilities, often searching for improvement over a prior inspection of the same facility. Due to COVID19, the department was only able to perform 24 inspections in FY20, with two repeat inspections from the previous year Although the average inspection score in FY20 was slightly lower than the previous year, 22 of the 24 inspections completed in FY2020 found improved conditions over the previous inspection for the same facility, yielding an average increased score of almost 10 percent. This upward trend in inspection scores documents that the Waste Index inspection process is having a positive impact on solid waste management in rural Alaska and is allowing landfill operators to successfully make changes that result in increased compliance.
|B: Result - Protect public health with regulated food, seafood, and public facilities.|
|B1: Core Service - Protect public health with regulated food, seafood, and public facilities.|
Target #1: 50 percent of all food manufacturers are inspected at least once each fiscal year.
Analysis of results and challenges: In FY2020, the State of Alaska had 1,272 food manufacturing facilities, which included 794 seafood, 439 general food, and 39 shellfish manufacturers. Shellfish operations are required to be inspected each year to maintain compliance with the International Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) and the FDA to continue to allow interstate and international sales and shipments. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department suspended most inspections out of the concern for the safety of staff, residents of communities, and food manufacturing employees. The FDA temporarily suspended contract work for manufactured food facilities and the ISSC suspended the minimum inspection requirements for shellfish operations. Many of the large food processing establishments implemented protocols to limit off-campus contacts to protect the communities where they are located and their employees. Due to these circumstances, in FY2020 staff were only able to inspect 72% of Alaska's shellfish processors, 25% of seafood processors, and 18% of general manufactured food processors. Other manufactured food facilities are not held to the same federal and international requirements for the frequency of inspection as shellfish processors. For non-shellfish food manufacturers, the Department focuses its resources on facilities that are a part of the FDA contract inspection list and facilities that have been categorized by the program as high risk.
Due to limited capacity, and rigorous training requirements for new inspectors, it is not feasible to expect 100% of low and medium risk non-shellfish food processors to be inspected each year. The 14 currently qualified FSS inspector's complete non-shellfish manufactured food inspections in addition to retail food and public facility inspections statewide.
Target #2: All permitted retail food establishments are inspected at least once each fiscal year.
Analysis of results and challenges: On-site inspections are a critical component of an effective regulatory public health food safety program. Inspections serve to verify compliance with food safety rules, as well as educate and work collaboratively with operators to develop strong food safety management systems.
The Department of Environmental Conservation assigns each food establishment to a risk category in order to efficiently use resources associated with inspection site visits. Factors used to assign risk include consideration of characteristics of the foods served, the establishment's preparation processes, and whether the facility specifically serves a population that is at a higher risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Examples of facilities assigned to a high-risk category include full-service restaurants, nursing homes, and food processors that smoke, cure, or reduce-oxygen package products for extended shelf-life. Medium risk facilities include quick service operations, schools not serving a highly susceptible population, and retail food store operations that prepare food for immediate service. Low risk facilities include coffee stands, hot dog carts, convenience store operations, and bars and taverns that serve and sell commercially processed foods that require minimal preparation. In addition to considering the assigned facility-specific risk categorization, the program determines inspection frequency priorities by taking into account facility-specific factors such as complaint and inspection history as well as community size, number of permitted facilities, and location.
Because of the remote nature of many of the program's total facility inventory, the extensive training needed by new staff to ensure fair and uniform application of program activities, and the depth and breadth of the program's responsibilities; high and medium risk facilities are prioritized in accordance with inspection frequency protocols. The Department focuses on the quality of inspections and completing timely follow-up on inspections to ensure the correction of violations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and out of concern for safety of industry, communities and staff, the Department suspended all retail food inspections starting March 2020. Inspection staff were re-assigned to work on the COVID-19 task force with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. In FY2020, there were 5,031 permitted permanent food establishments, and a total of 1,068, or 24% were inspected by department staff. 146 of these required follow-up inspections to ensure corrective actions were taken. These inspections covered 31% of high-risk retail food facilities and 26% of medium risk retail food facilities. Low risk facilities are generally only inspected when complaints are received, if the facility has never been inspected, if the opportunity arises when an inspector is in a community, or if it is affiliated with a higher risk facility.
Target #3: All inspected permitted retail food establishments are found to have staff with required food safety training and certification.
Analysis of results and challenges: Food safety education and training are critical in preventing foodborne illness. Approximately 50% of American food dollars are spent at food establishments. Likewise, over 50% of reported foodborne illness outbreaks originate in food service establishments and are often attributable to food workers' improper food handling practices.
Since December 28, 2006, all food handlers have been required to have basic food worker training and hold an Alaska Food Worker Card issued by the Food Safety and Sanitation program. The Department of Environmental Conservation provides online test preparation and testing, and aggressively works to increase industry education statewide. In addition, all establishments classified as high to medium risk (based on the complexity of menu and preparation processes) must employ at least one Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM), a person who is knowledgeable about food safety management practices and systems, and has passed a nationally-accepted examination. When the CFPM is not present at a food establishment, the operation must have a designated Person in Charge (PIC) who ensures that food workers are handling food safely.
This measure reflects the percentage of inspected facilities that had food worker cards for all employees, and those that had either a PIC or CFPM present, as applicable. During FY2020, 86% of facilities were found to have staff with proper training and certification, a 3% decrease from FY2019, and 72% of facilities had Food Worker Cards for all employees, a 1% decrease from FY2019.
Although the responsibility for food safety lies with the food establishment's workers who are procuring, storing, preparing, and serving food on a daily basis, it is important that Department staff have face-to-face discussions with food professionals to reinforce and verify compliance with requirements. These on-site visits are critical to changing behaviors that lead to foodborne illness and serve as a critical tool to educate workers about food safety.
Target #4: Retail food establishment operators control all risk factors for foodborne illness.
Analysis of results and challenges: The occurrence of foodborne illness is grossly underreported which makes it unreliable as a measure of effectiveness of the State's efforts to protect public health. As an alternative, the Department of Environmental Conservation looks at the number of risk factors for foodborne illness present during inspections as an indicator of its impact on Alaska's retail food operators.
Risk factor categories reported in this measure include: food held at unsafe temperatures, inadequate or incomplete cooking, contaminated food and equipment, and poor personal hygiene. These categories represent the food preparation practices and food employee behaviors that are most often responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks and that can be reasonably measured during inspections.
During on-site, risk-focused assessments of the facility's operations, Department staff evaluate a food establishment operator's abilities to control the risk factors in their food establishment, provide education and technical assistance, and ensure compliance with food safety rules. In addition to prioritizing use of its resources to plan its work, the Department conducts considerable outreach and technical assistance through other means, such as its comprehensive website, educational materials that accompany operation permits, and participation in industry events and conferences.
Food establishment compliance for the risk factor categories of food cooked to safe temperatures, protection of food and equipment from cross-contamination, and personal hygiene have remained relatively stable since FY2012. The risk factor of personal hygiene is most often responsible for foodborne outbreaks, and reflects elements such as hand washing, not working when ill, and avoiding bare hand contact with food that will not be further cooked. This category includes prepared foods being safely cooled, a more complex process requiring well trained personnel, and adequate equipment facilities. Cooling procedures for food are observed less frequently during inspections and it takes more time during the inspection to adequately evaluate practices for compliance status. Increased quality assurance reviews, inspection method standardization, and training has resulted in more observations and findings in this category. As facilities receive more feedback and become aware of issues with food cooling, it is expected that there will be an improvement in this area.
|C: Result - Provide laboratory testing services, analytical and technical information for assessment of risks to public health, welfare, and the environment.|
|C1: Core Service - Provide laboratory testing services, analytical and technical information for assessment of risks to public health, welfare, and the environment.|
Target #1: All requested tests for chemical and biological animal diseases and environmental toxins are completed.
Analysis of results and challenges: It is the goal of the Department of Environmental Conservation's Environmental Health Laboratory to provide accurate, timely, and reliable results for 100% of the acceptable requests received. In FY2020, the Laboratory successfully completed analysis on nearly all of the work submitted that year. An additional 6% of requests were prepared and managed for subcontract laboratories, and less than one percent of the submissions were either rejected or are currently in-process.
In FY2020 there were 15,268 new tests requested, about a 19% increase over last year. This is due to a couple of factors: new areas doing shellfish growing water classifications, a full year of the Kodiak dairy operations, a new cheese producer, and several internal projects to improve methods, apply for method approvals, and surveil for emerging issues. Some projects were initiated when sample submissions declined at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Laboratory also benefited from less turnover than prior years and fully trained laboratory staff, which contributed to the increase in the on-time completion rate.
The Laboratory continuously works to update forms and processes in order to assist and educate clients while still adhering to a quality system compliant with multiple oversight programs. To assist customers in meeting the sample submission requirements, the Laboratory maintains a "Sample Submission Manual" that provides guidance on proper sample collection, handling, and shipping. This manual can be accessed on the department's website at https://dec.alaska.gov/eh/lab.aspx.
Target #2: All acceptable sample requests are completed on-time within project parameters.
Analysis of results and challenges: The Department of Environmental Conservation's Environmental Health Laboratory utilizes a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to more efficiently provide laboratory testing services, analysis, and technical information for assessment of risks to public health, welfare, and the environment.
All sample submissions to the Laboratory are entered into the LIMS, labeled with unique identification numbers, and distributed to staff for processing and analysis. Submission turnaround time (TAT) varies based on customer need, project parameters, and workload balancing. The on-time completion of work orders represents the timeliness of final result delivery.
In FY2020, the Laboratory had nine months of 100% on-time reporting. The lowest month was 97.6%. Although there are more tests completed in FY2020 than FY2019, much of the increase comes from internal projects. The marked increase in on-time delivery spanning FY2016 to FY2018 is the result of two factors: First, the number of processes in-house has decreased, improving the ability to complete sampling requests, and secondly the Department identified an information technology learning curve relating to accurately capturing performance data. When the LIMS was implemented in FY2012, TAT work order processing data was used for trending, however, accuracy of the data fell out of focus due to operational demands. In anticipation of LIMS data availability for future budget years the Laboratory instituted process controls ensuring the accuracy of data for targeted performance metrics. Implementation of this performance measure in FY2020 reflects the Department's ability to better identify, target, and track the laboratory's throughput annually.
Target #3: All livestock and poultry entering Alaska have current health permits.
Analysis of results and challenges: Domestic pets (dog, cats, pet birds, pocket pets) and livestock (cattle, bison, yaks, horses, pigs, sheep and goats) entering the State of Alaska must have a current Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) or Health Certificate. In addition, all livestock and poultry imports are required to be accompanied by an importation permit that is issued by the Alaska Office of the State Veterinarian. In FY2020, the total number of domestic pet imports was 7,937, and the total number of livestock and poultry import permits issued was 658 which represented 103,114 animals. For livestock there were 166 imports containing 530 individual animals, and there were 492 import shipments of poultry that contained 102,584 individual birds. Seven non-compliant CVIs were identified. The applicants found in non-compliance were contacted and notified of the infraction or error on the document and instructed on the proper compliance regulation.
A person importing animals to Alaska must have them examined by an accredited veterinarian. The Department of Environmental Conservation issues the importation permit to the veterinarian after reviewing the animals' health status to ensure the disease testing requirements have been met. The permit process gives the State Veterinarian early notice of imports and minimizes the risk of importing animals with infectious/contagious diseases or parasites of concern, thus protecting both domestic animals and the state's wildlife resources. The high rate of compliance reflects the efforts to coordinate with federal agencies (USDA, CDC, and Customs and Border Patrol) and other states, as well as the outreach efforts taken to inform animal importers, brokers, and animal owners of Alaska's importation requirements.
Health certificates for poultry and livestock entering the state are required to be sent to the State Veterinarian within seven days for review, and to validate the information on the import permit that all animals have met regulatory requirements. Animals enter the state through various land, air, and seaports along the border, monitored by federal authorities, but the federal officials do not enforce State entry requirements, which are often more restrictive. The State coordinates with federal agencies and is notified when imports cross the ports, obtaining any federal movement permit information. If animals enter Alaska without meeting State import requirements, an investigation is initiated and the owner of the animal(s) is contacted, as well as the veterinarian who issued the health certificate. Appropriate action is taken to resolve the issue which may involve imposing a quarantine, performing an examination, and collecting samples for diagnostic testing. If an animal is diagnosed with an infectious or contagious disease, the State Veterinarian will perform an epidemiologic investigation, track the animal's point of origin, and inform counterparts in other states or countries in order to control and mitigate the spread of the disease. The electronic permit system can be invaluable during these investigations as this data must be accessible in a rapid and efficient manner. The department also participates in trace exercises with the USDA, and other state and Canadian animal health officials on a regular basis, to validate that animal shipments can be effectively tracked.
|D: Result - Verify safe drinking water and compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.|
|D1: Core Service - Verify safe drinking water and compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.|
Target #1: All Alaskans served by a public water system are served by systems in compliance with health-based standards.
Analysis of results and challenges: In 1978, the State of Alaska was delegated primacy for implementation of the Public Water System Supervision program and began the adoption and implementation of Safe Drinking Water Act requirements to address the threat of waterborne disease and provide for the protection of public health. Community water systems (CWS) are a subset of federally regulated public water systems (PWS) and are required to be in compliance with the various health-based standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. These standards are designed to protect people from consuming unsafe drinking water and establish limits for many chemical and radiological contaminants, as well as microbiological (bacteria, viruses, and protozoa) contaminants. During FFY2019, Alaska remained at the same percentage of CWS in compliance with the health-based standards as the prior year.
The Department of Environmental Conservation's Drinking Water program offers a two-pronged approach of compliance assistance and enforcement for Alaska's PWS, allowing staff to have appropriate oversight with the intent of serving safe drinking water on a consistent basis to as many people as possible. The increasing number of complex federal drinking water rules, such as the Stage 2 Disinfectants/Disinfection By-Products Rules, the Ground Water Rule, and the Revised Total Coliform Rules, all continue to challenge the resources of both the Department and PWS owners and operators.
Target #2: All public water systems submit required sanitary surveys according to their designated schedule.
Analysis of results and challenges: The Department of Environmental Conservation provides oversight of the Sanitary Survey program which provides onsite reviews of the source water, treatment facilities and equipment, and the operations and maintenance procedures of Alaska's public water systems (PWS). This information is used to evaluate the adequacy of a system and helps determine if the water system is producing and distributing safe drinking water. A thoroughly completed sanitary survey should identify any deficiencies in the system. The system operator is required to take appropriate corrective actions to fix deficiencies identified from the sanitary survey.
The Department is responsible for the training and approval of Sanitary Survey Inspectors, as well as enforcement actions on those PWS that have overdue sanitary surveys. Inspector training and approval is provided for both State and third-party sanitary survey inspectors. Third party inspectors complete most sanitary surveys annually.
Most waterborne disease outbreaks are caused by bacteria or other microorganisms, and routine testing for bacteriological contaminants is one of the best ways to make sure that drinking water is safe. An important part of the Total Coliform Rule and the subsequent Ground Water Rule are the requirements that all federally regulated PWS have a periodic sanitary survey completed for their entire water system. In FY2020, approximately 93% of Alaska's public water systems were in compliance with their sanitary survey requirement. This is a slight increase from last year.
Some challenges the Department faces in meeting this goal include: remote water system locations and the difficulty in getting to some of the public water systems, which can be costly to travel to; and the cost to the system for conducting the sanitary survey. The Department continues to address these issues as funding and staffing allows, and continues to update and implement the use of electronic sanitary surveys to achieve consistency in the quality of onsite inspections.
Current as of December 10, 2020