Mining News: DEC takes lead on water pollution rules
EPA formally OKs four-phase authority transfer to state to administer wastewater discharge permitting under Clean Water Act
For Mining News
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formally approved Alaska’s application Oct. 31 to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program. The approved state program is called the Alaska Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (APDES) Program, and the transfer of full program responsibilities is a four-phase process that will be completed Oct. 31, 2011.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Water submitted a final application to the EPA in 2008 for authority to permit wastewater discharges in Alaska in lieu of EPA’s Seattle-based permitting program.
The Alaska Legislature approved a measure in 2005 that authorized DEC to seek primacy in issuing the permits under provisions of the Clean Water Act, and after several revision, DEC submitted a final NPDES application.
The transfer of authority to DEC would, in effect, give the agency control over where priorities are set in granting NPDES permits, but the standards for permitting must be as rigorous as those used by the EPA or more so, according to officials of both agencies.
Alaska was one of only five states that did not have this authority.
Phase I of APDES was implemented upon EPA’s program approval and includes permitting of domestic discharges, seafood processing facilities, hatcheries, and timber facilities.
APDES Phase II, effective October 31, 2009, includes:
discharges from federal facilities;
miscellaneous discharges (e.g. utilities, ship and dry dock, filter backwash, transportation, and seawater treatment);
pretreatment program (for industrial and commercial discharges to publicly owned treatment works); and
Both hardrock and placer mining operations throughout the state are subject to provisions of the APDES program.
Existing EPA permits for Phase II facilities and activities transferred to DEC on Oct. 31. Transferred permits will remain in effect (along with the state certifications) until DEC issues APDES permits to replace the EPA-issued permits.
Alaska’s resource industries supported the state takeover of issuing NPDES permits, arguing that it removes uncertainty from the regulatory process and provides much-needed balance.
Environmental groups, however, opposed the transfer, contending that granting the state control of NPDES permitting would chip away at environmental protections.
For questions about the APDES Phase II permitting other than stormwater authority, visit DEC’s Web site at http://dec.alaska.gov/water/wwdp/industrial%20ww/indww.htm. Frequently asked questions about stormwater permitting may be found at www.dec.state.ak.us/water/wnpspc/stormwater/index.htm, including information about application submissions and contacts.