Updated Regulations

Recreational Water Quality Criteria - Updates

DEC Water Quality Standard staff propose new regulatory language at 18 AAC 70.020(b)(2) and 18 AAC 70.020(b)(14) to adopt E-coli as the recommended water quality criteria for freshwater, water recreation, contact recreation and enterococci as the recommended criteria for marine waters to protect primary contact recreational uses (e.g. swimming, bathing). Adoption of new or revised water quality criteria for coastal recreational waters is a requirement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) §303(c) and a requirement for Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant funding per CWA §406(a) through (c).

What will be updated?

1. The recommended fecal indicator bacteria and associated criterion at 18 AAC 70.020(b)(14)(B)(i) Marine, Water Recreation, contact recreation will be revised from fecal coliform to Enterococcus values, Table 1.

2. The recommended fecal indicator bacteria and associated criterion at 18 AAC 70.020(b)(2)(B)(i) Freshwater, Water Recreation, Contact Recreation will be revised from fecal coliform to e. Coli values, Table 1.

3. The revised Enterococcus criteria will be implemented for BEACH program monitoring for contact recreation use.


The current recreational use criteria in 18 AAC 70.020(b)(2)(B) and 18 AAC 70.020(b)(14)(B) are based on the 1968 Report of the Committee on Water Quality Criteria, also known as the Green Book. The Green Book’s recommended criteria were developed based on studies from the 1940s and 1950s. In 1986, EPA published revised Ambient Water Quality Criteria for bacteria based on studies that demonstrated E.coli and enterococci are more accurate indicators than fecal coliform when identifying an acceptable risk to human health.

In 2000, the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) was signed into law. It amended the CWA which require EPA to conduct studies associated with pathogens and human health and to publish new or revised CWA section 304(a) criteria for pathogens and pathogen indicators based on those studies.

The Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC) currently used by Alaska for BEACH monitoring purposes are the marine values established in 1986 and promulgated for Alaska via the Bacteria Rule for Coastal and Great Lakes Recreation in 20041. DEC has not adopted the 1986 recommended freshwater criteria into 18 AAC 70.020(b) as state approved water quality standards but rather continues to use fecal coliform as the indicator.

Summary of 2012 RWQC

  1. EPA recommends that states adopt enterococci criteria for recreation in marine waters. EPA also recommends state adoption of either enterococci or E. coli criteria for freshwater recreation criteria. Alaska will adopt the recommended EPA criteria for both marine and fresh waters.

  2. The new enterococci and E. coli criteria allow two possible criteria values based on the risk level expressed as an Estimated Illness Rate. States may choose an estimated illness rate of either 32 per 1000 swimmers or 36 per 1000. Alaska is choosing to adopt criteria values based on an Estimated Illness Rate of 36 per 1,000 swimmers which will be protective of the designated use of primary contact recreation.

  3. EPA’s 2012 criteria document includes a Beach Action Value (BAV) for state beach monitoring programs. EPA states that “the BAV is not a component of EPA’s recommended criteria, but a tool that states may choose to use, without adopting it into their WQS as a “do not exceed” value for beach notification purposes (such as advisories).” The BAV represents bacteria concentration at the 75th percentile of the estimated illnesses rate compared to the 90th percentile concentration used to set the 2012 nationally recommended criteria. Alaska does not intend to adopt the proposed BAV but has instead proposed recommended criteria most appropriate to Alaska-specific environmental and recreational conditions.

1 2004 Bacteria Rule in 69 FR 67217-67243

Nonapplicability of Groundwater Provisions

DEC Contaminated Sites program is proposing to amend the language at 18 AAC 70.005(a) Nonapplicability of groundwater provisions to define the specific types of sites, facilities and actions that are exempt from the groundwater provisions of Chapter 70 when governed by specific regulations under 18 AAC 60, 18 AAC 75 and 18 AAC 78.

What will be updated?

The proposed regulations in 18 AAC 70.005 will include additional language to expand the specific types of sites, facilities and actions that are exempt from the groundwater provisions of Chapter 70 when certain actions are governed under other regulatory frameworks during certain types of response, cleanup and corrective actions. These include:

  • A site undergoing a response action under 18 AAC 75
  • A site subject to the site cleanup rules under 18 AAC 75
  • A site subject to Article 2 and Article 6 under 18 AAC 78
  • An inactive reserve pit undergoing a corrective action under 18 AAC 60.440
  • A solid waste landfill undergoing assessment monitoring or corrective action under 18 AAC 60.860
  • A site undergoing a removal action or a remedial action under 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675
  • A site undergoing a corrective action under 42 U.S.C. 6901-6992k

In order to allow certain actions carried out under other regulatory authorities to proceed, including the Contaminated Sites (18 AAC 75) and the Solid Waste Program (18 AAC 60), these actions are exempt from the groundwater provisions in 18 AAC 70. Such actions may include the cleanup of leaking underground storage tanks and contaminated sites to address imminent and substantial risks to human health, or actions or permits for solid waste disposal facilities.

What is Different?

Specifically, 18 AAC 70.005(a) (1) has been expanded from two to seven paragraphs. Also, the original language referencing EPA approval under CERCLA has been removed because such action at sites in the state of Alaska are subject to DEC approval. In specific:

  • Language has been added to clarify that a site undergoing cleanup under 18 AAC 75 means a site subject to the site cleanup rules, which include not only a cleanup, but all provisions, actions, and requirements including institutional controls, as detailed throughout 18 AAC 75.325-390.
  • Language has been added to clarify that a site undergoing a corrective action under 18 AAC 78 means a site subject to Article 2 (Corrective Action for Leaking USTs) and Article 6 (Cleanup Levels) under 18 AAC 78.
  • The reference to EPA approval under Comprehensive Environmental Response. Compensation, Liability Response (CERCLA) has been removed.

Public Involvement: How you can be involved

DEC Division of Water staff drafted new regulatory language and updated bacteria criteria to ensure the RWQC are scientifically defensible and protect people from illness in recreational waters that could be expected as the result of ingestion, or immersion in water such as swimming, kayaking, surfing , or any other recreational activity where ingestion or immersion are likely.

The regulation changes have been posted on this page for formal public comment. You may comment on the proposed regulation changes, including the potential costs to private persons of complying with the proposed changes:

  1. By submitting written comments to Denise Elston, DEC Division of Water, at 410 Willoughby Ave, Suite 303, P.O. Box 111800. Juneau, Alaska 99811. Additionally, the Department of Environmental Conservation will accept comments by facsimile at (907) 465-5274 and by electronic mail at denise.elston@alaska.gov.

  2. Comments may also be submitted through the Alaska Online Public Notice System .

  3. Oral or written comments also may be submitted at a hearing to be held on August 16th, 2016, in the DEC Main Conference Room, Second Floor, 410 Willoughby Ave. Juneau. The hearing will be held from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. and might be extended to accommodate those present before 6:00 pm. who did not have an opportunity to submit comments previously. Those individuals who cannot attend the public hearing but wish to participate via teleconference may do so by calling (800) 315-6338. Access Code 51851.

  4. The comments must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on August 30th, 2016. (Comment Period Is Now Closed)

Public Question and Answer Opportunities

Public notices are one of many ways DEC can communicate with Alaskans about current activities and invite the public to be part of the discussion about our environmental issues.

If you have a question, please submit your written questions relevant to the proposed action to Denise Elston by electronic mail at denise.elston@alaska.gov or mail to, 410 Willoughby Ave, Suite 303, P.O. Box 111800, Juneau, Alaska 99811. The questions must be received at least 10 days before the end of the public comment period. DEC will aggregate its response to substantially similar questions and make the questions and our response available here.

Public Questions and DEC Responses

Accessibility Information

If you are a person with a disability who needs a special accommodation in order to participate in this process, please contact Natalie Wolf at (907) 269-0291 or TDD Relay Service 1-800-770-8973/TTY or dial 711 no later than August 5th, 2016 to ensure that any necessary accommodations can be provided.

Economic Impacts

This regulation update is anticipated to have negligible cost impact on the state and private industry.


State of Alaska Resources


For more information:

Denise Elston
Environmental Program Specialist
Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Division of Water: Water Quality Standards, Assessment & Restoration
Telephone (907) 465-5018
Email: denise.elston@alaska.gov