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COVID-19 caused Non-Compliance Concerns, No Action Assurance Memorandum

To Whom It May Concern,

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remains committed to protecting human health and the environment. In certain instances, such as, but not limited to DEC required tank inspections, associated piping inspections, drills and exercises, and facility inspections, DEC recognizes State public health mandates designed to protect an individual’s health or well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic may conflict with regulatory requirements.

In order to facilitate commerce while continuing to protect human health and the environment, the DEC Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR) Director is putting forth the following guidance. Please check back regularly as this guidance could change as our situation evolves.

Aboveground Storage Tank and Facility Oil Piping Inspections

As long as health mandates restricting interstate and intrastate travel remain in place, DEC is asking the regulated community to use the waiver process outlined in 18 AAC 75.015 to request deferred internal and external tank and associated facility oil piping inspections for affected facilities. Please submit deferment requests to your plan administrator via email. If you don’t know who that is, please see contact information below. Deferment requests must include an equivalent level of protection and a description of how these equivalent protections will be recorded. Waivers are not necessary if you are deferring an inspection within the calendar year that it is required; if you have already communicated the inspection dates with your plan administrator please update them on the changed timeline.

Drills and Exercises

For facilities obligated or planning to conduct an equipment deployment exercise, an incident management team exercise, or another type of exercise in the near future, DEC understands that for most facilities travel is required. In order to comply with health mandates and protect human health, DEC is encouraging drills and exercises scheduled for the remainder of 2020 be rescheduled for early or mid-2021. These requests should be made to the DEC in writing to their designated plan reviewer. Please note that DEC anticipates a significant number of drills and exercises will be rescheduled. This will result in the likelihood that some exercises will be scheduled for the same date. Please be aware that DEC staff will do their best to accommodate each plan holder but you may experience a reduction in DEC participation at exercises as a result of scheduling conflicts. DEC is also encouraging plan holders consider creative uses of technology and focused exercise objectives to allow exercises to be held while adhering to health mandates and social distancing.

DEC Facility Inspections

In accordance with current health mandates, DEC SPAR staff will not be conducting onsite facility inspections at this time. If a DEC inspection was scheduled during this time, DEC staff will be reaching out to reschedule that inspection. Inspections will begin again when the health mandates restricting travel and requiring social distancing are lifted.

DEC Emergency Spill Response

If an oil spill occurs that requires a response from the department, it will be done remotely unless the spill is large enough to require an incident management team. In that case DEC staff will participate in the incident management team but will do as much as possible remotely. Spill responders meet the criteria identified in Alaska Essential Services and Critical Workforce Infrastructure Order and may travel. In the event responders must either travel between Alaskan communities or travel to enter Alaska, and begin work on critical infrastructure before their self-quarantine period is complete, an "Alaska Critical Infrastructure COVID-19 Community/Workforce Protective Plan" must be developed and submitted to the COVID-19 Unified Command. The plan must outline protective measures your business will enact in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and not endanger lives in the communities in which you operate, of others who serve as a part of that infrastructure or the ability of that critical infrastructure to function.

Underground Storage Tanks

Owners and operators of regulated underground storage tanks (USTs) shall continue to maintain and operate UST systems in accordance with regulatory requirements to the maximum extent possible. Registration and financial responsibility shall be kept current. Leak detection monitoring and cathodic protection equipment must remain on and properly monitored. Any leak detection or monitoring alarms should be responded to appropriately. However, due to travel and other pandemic related limitations, it may not be feasible to complete required inspections, testing, maintenance or upgrades within specified timeframes. In such cases, it will be important for the owner or operator to thoroughly document all efforts taken to comply, the reason for delay in compliance and notify DEC of the delay as necessary. When pandemic related travel and work limitations are lifted, DEC will work with owners and operators in establishing plans and schedules to complete any delayed inspections, testing, or other requirements within a reasonable timeframe. 

If you have questions, please be assured the Division is still responsive to your phone calls and emails. Many of our employees are working remotely to comply with suggestions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and remain able to assist you in a timely manner. Please contact us.

Contact Information

Crystal Smith – Anchorage
crystal.smith2@alaska.gov
907-269-7682
Sarah Moore – Fairbanks
sarah.moore@alaska.gov
907-465-5239
Curtis Kiesel – Juneau
curtis.kiesel@alaska.gov
907-465-5367
Larry Brinkerhoff – UST
larry.brinkerhoff@alaska.gov
907-269-3055

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the DEC/Division may issue additional guidance to address further questions or situations that arise related to water quality requirements and permit compliance.

Sincerely,

Graham Wood

Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Program

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