Water Pollution: Alyeska's Efforts to Comply With Reissued Ballast Water Treatment Permit

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-05-08.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United   States   General   Accounting   Office
                  Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee
GAO               on Oversight and Investigations,
                  Committee on Energy and Commerce,
                  House of Representatives

May 1990
                  WATER POLLUTION
                  Alyeska’s Efforts to
                  Comply With Reissued
                  Ballast Water
                  Treatment Permit     :

                  RESTRICTED --Not      to be released outside the
                  General Accounting Office unless speckfically
                  approved by the Office of Congressional
                                           1                                    ‘i
                                                                     ___   -.
united    states
General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20648

Resonrces, Community,


May 8,199O
The Honorable John D. Dingell
Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight
  and Investigations
Committee on Energy and Commerce
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Chairman:
This report responds to your request that we review the Environmental
Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently reissued National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the Alyeska Pipeline Service
Company’s treatment of ballast water at Port Valdez, Alaska. In review-
ing the permit, we (1) compared the effluent limits and other require-
ments under the reissued permit with those of the old permit, (2)
determined the reasons for changesin the reissued permit, and (3)
examined Alyeska’s initial efforts to comply with the reissued permit’s
effluent limits and reporting requirements.

We found that the reissued permit generally has more stringent limits
for discharged treated ballast water, reporting, testing, and environmen-
tal monitoring requirements. The reissued permit has more rigorous lim-
its for aromatic hydrocarbons (BJZTX),* pH, and discharge flow rate; and
there are new limits for total suspendedsolids, total organic carbon, and
naphthalene.2 In addition, there are new reporting, toxicity testing, and
environmental monitoring requirements, which strengthen the reissued
permit. Metal monitoring is decreasedunder the reissued permit.

 Several factors influenced the permit changes,including (1) Alyeska
 operating data indicating that lower effluent limits were achievable and
 that less metal monitoring was needed,(2) EPA’s use of more stringent
 technology standards for the type of pollutants being discharged by Aly-
 eska, (3) Alaska’s decision to require stricter permit limits in certain
 instances, and (4) input from citizen groups and the public during the
 comment period on the draft permit.

 ‘BETX, a subsetof individual aromatichydmarbom, are toxic or h-    poUutantsmnsiseingof
 benzene,ethylbenzene,toluene, and xylem
 2Naphth&ne is a t&c aromatichydrmarbon.

 Page I                           GAO/?tCEDWlZ4 BeIssued Bdht      Wd.er Treatment Permit
                           and to resolve environmental allegations raised by a private citizen
                           about the facility. On May 8, 1989, EPA reissued the NPDES permit to Aly-
                           eska; the permit becameeffective on June 7, 1989.

                           The reissued permit has more stringent limits for all effluent parameters
Permit Changes             that were continued from the previous permit. (Seeapp. I for a compari-
Strengthen Effluent        son of the parameters limited and/or monitored under the two permits.)
Limits and Reporting       The previous permit established effluent limits for oil and grease,BETX,
                           the discharge flow rate, and pH. The 1989 permit added new effluent
Requirements               limits for naphthalene, total suspendedsolids, and total organic carbon,
                           and eliminated the oil and greaseeffluent limit by incorporating it in the
                           BETX and total organic carbon limits. In addition, effluent limits for
                           sex-the dominant toxic or hazardous pollutants regulated in the reis-
                           sued permit-were made more stringent by including separate limits for
                           the summer and winter months. In contrast, metal monitoring under the
                            1989 permit was decreased.
                           Several reporting requirements were added to the reissued permit to
                           further protect the environment. These requirements include (l),report-
                           ing on test results to determine the effect of pollutants discharged from
                           the treatment facility on sediment contamination and on marine life in
                           the receiving body of water and (2) developing operating procedures-
                           known as a best management practices plan6 -to minimize the release
                           of pollutants from the treatment facility. The reissued permit also estab-
                           lishes a technical advisory group to assist EPA and the Alaska Depart-
                           ment of Environmental Conservation (ADEC)in evaluating the
                           environmental monitoring reports required by the permit.

                           According to the EPA officials, a number of factors influenced the
Many Factors               changesto Alyeska’s permit:
Influence Permit
Changes                l   Alyeska operating data under the old permit indicated that lower efflu-
                           ent limits were in fact achievable. EPA was subsequently able to include
                           these lower values as effluent limits for the reissued permit. For exam-
                           ple, EPA cited Alyeska’s voluntary construction and use of biological
                           treatment ponds since 1986 as the major reason for the lower summer
                           BETX effluent limits in the reissued permit. Using Alyeska’s operating

                           %est managementpracticesplans establishguidelinesand proceduresfor the efficient operation and
                           maintenanceof a facility. The objectiveof Alyeska’sbestmanagementpracticesplan is to prevent or
                           minlmh the potential for the releaseof poUutantsfrom the facility to the surrounding bodiesof
                           water, and to achievethe maximumremovalof poUutamsthrough the treatment prcwss.

                           Page 3                            GAO/TUXlM%134 lteismed Ballast Water Tmdment Permit

                        Several new reporting requirements under the reissued permit are being
                        deferred or changed due to settlement negotiations arising out of Aly-
                        eska’s appeal of someof the reissued permit’s requirements. The
                        requirements being deferred or changed as part of the settlement negoti-
                        ations among representatives of EPA, Alyeska, and Alaska include the
                        specific sampling location for environmental monitoring tests, the timing
                        of certain studies, and several requirements concerning the best man-
                        agement practices plan7 According to EPA officials, the three parties are
                        currently near a final settlement on the specifics of each requirement.
                        The agreementswill be reflected in a modified permit expected to be
                        released for public comment by June 1990.

                        These officials note that Alyeska will not be able to comply with all the
                        requirements of the reissued permit until its expanded treatment facili-
                        ties are constructed and the reporting requirement negotiations between
                        WA, Alyeska, and Alaska are concluded and incorporated into the per-
                        mit. On the basis of the available information and time schedules,as of
                        January 1990, EPA officials believe these issueswill be resolved by the
                        fall of 1991.

                        Our objectives in reviewing the reissued permit were to compare the
Objectives, Scope,and   effluent limits and other requirements under the reissued permit with
Methodology             those of the old permit, determine the reasonsfor changesin the reis-
                        sued permit, and examine Alyeska’s initial efforts to comply with the
                        reissued permit’s effluent limits and reporting requirements. To accom-
                        plish this, we interviewed officials from EPA headquarters, EPA'S Seattle
                        Regional Office, and Alyeska’s offices in Seattle, Washington, and Wash-
                        ington, D.C. We also reviewed the two permits, Alyeska’s self-monitoring
                        reports for the first 5 months under the reissued permit, and other perti-
                        nent documents in EPA’S files.

                        We discussedthe information in this report with EPA and Alyeska offi-
                        cials, and they generally agreed with the facts presented. We have incor-
                        porated their comments where appropriate. However, as requested, we
                        did not obtain official agency comments on this report. We conducted
                        our audit work during December 1989 and January 1990 in accordance
                        with generally accepted government auditing standards.

                         ‘Deferring reporhg requirementsduring the first year of a new permit is not uncommon,according
                         to EPAofficials For example,    arequirementfor Alyeska to conductstudiesduring the spring and fall
                         of the first year of the permit was deferreduntil the secondyear. EPAofficials felt it was unrealistic
                         to fulfill this requirementduring the fast year, sincethe permit becameeffective in early June.
Page 7   GAO/ltCFDW124 lleissned Ballast Wrter Treatment Permit

Page s   GAO,4KXW9&124 Retied   Bdast Water Treatment Permit
Table 1.2: Monitoring Requirements (No
Effluent Limit Established)              Parameter                                              1990 permit                  1999 permit
                                         Total orgamc carbon                                                                 8
                                         Total suspended solids                                                              a
                                         BIological oxygen demand                               yes                          "0
                                         Phenols                                                yes                          yes
                                         Temoerature                                            ves                          "es
                                         Denslty                                                yes                          yes
                                         Dissolved lnoraantc ohosohorous                        no                           ves
                                         Ammonia                                                no                           yes
                                         Total hvdrocarbons                                     no                           ves
                                         Dissolved oxygen                                       no                           yes
                                         Individual aromatic hvdrocarbons                       vesb                         vesC
                                         Aromahc oil & grease                                   yes                          no
                                         Chromium               -.                              yes                          no
                                         Nickel               -                                 yes                          no
                                         Selenium                                               yes                          no
                                         Cadmium                                                yes                          no
                                         Copper                                                 yes                          no
                                         Lead                                                   ves                          no
                                         Zinc                                                   yes                          yes
                                         Methvlene chloride                                     ves                          ves
                                         Trichloroethene                                        yes                          yes
                                         Phenanthrene/ anthracene                               yes                          yes
                                         aEffluent ltmrt established (see table 1.1)
                                         ‘These Include benzene, toluene. xylene, tnmethlybenzene, naphthalene, methylnaphthalene,
                                         dimethylnaphthalene, phenanthrene. and anthracene
                                         %cludes all the rndiwdual aromatrc hydrocarbon compounds I” the 1980 permrt as well as many others.

                                          Page 11                                GAO/IKXD-WlU     Reiss&   Balia&   Water Treatment   Permit
kippendix III

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Peter F. Guerrero, Associate Director
Resources,              Steven L. Elstein, Assistant Director
Community, and          Teresa F. Spisak, Assignment Manager
                        Angela R. Crump, Evaluator-In-Charge
Development Division,
Washington, D.C.

 (160016)               Page 18                  GAO/lu3m~l24   &Issned Bdaat water Tlvatment Permit

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Appendix II

Other New Requirements for Alyeska’s
1989 Permit

                  A number of new requirements were added to Alyeska’s 1989 permit:
              l Environmental monitoring was expanded.
              l A mixing zone compliance study was added.
              l Effluent toxicity testing was added (both sublethal and acute tests).
              l A best management practices plan was included.
              l Waste streams entering the treatment plant were limited to those identi-
                fied in the best management practices plan.
              . Alyeska determines whether incoming ballast water is contaminated
                with pollutants other than crude oil.
              . A technical advisory group was formed to assist ADEXand WA in evalu-
                ating environmental monitoring of the discharge.
              l EPA and ADEcwill be notified in advance of changesin treatment

                  Pyle   12               GAo/ltcEmm124   &iswed   B8ua.a water   Tnatment   Permit
Appendix I

Major Differences E3etweenAlyeska’s 1980 and
1989 Permits for Effluent Limitations and
Monitoring Requirements
Table 1.1:Effluent Limitations
                                                                              1990 permit                               1999 permit
                                                                         Maximum       Monthly                     Maximum       Monthly
                                 Parameter                                   daily     average                         daily    average
                                 BETX (mg/l)                                   90              6.0                        1 3a          0 7a
                                                                                                                          1 3b             c
                                 Naphthalene                                         d               d                       e             e
                                 Total susoended solids (mail)                       d               0                  45 0           30 0
                                                            I   -/   I

                                 Total organrc carbon (mg/l)                         d               d                  25 0           150
                                 Discharge flow rate (mgd)                    33.6            27 0                      30 0           21 0
                                 Oil & grease (mg/l)                          100              60                              f              t
                                 DH                                                  c         6.09                            c        6 09
                                                                                     c         9 cl”                           c        fl5”
                                 mgjl = mllllgrams per l&r
                                 mgd = mIllIon gallons per day
                                 %mit for the summer months (June l-September 30)
                                 %mlt for the writer months (October l-May 31)
                                 ‘Not appkable
                                 dMonltoring requrement only, no effluent limit establtshed
                                 eBelow quantltation limit (2 mwograms per Ikr)
                                 ‘Permit Incorporates oil and grease effluent llmlts Into the BETX and total arganfc carbon llmlts
                                 ~Muxmum value for monthly reading
                                 “MaxImum value for monthly readmg.

                                 Page 10                                 GAO/BCEB9+124        Beissued   Ballast   Water Treatment   Permit

Appendix I
Major Differences
Between Alyeska’s
1980 and 1989 Permits
for Effluent
Limitations and
Appendix II
Other New
Requirements for
Alyeska’s 1989 Permit
Appendix III
Major Contributors to
This Report
Tables                  Table 1.1:Effluent Limitations                                                  10
                        Table 1.2:Monitoring Requirements                                               11


                        ADEC      Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
                        BEIX      benzene,ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene
                        EPA       Environmental Protection Agency
                        GAO       General Accounting Office
                        NPDES     National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
                        RCED      Resources,Community, and Economic Development Division

                                                GAo/RcELMw1z4   Reissued Bauaet water   TlFatment   Permit
Unless you publicly releaseits contents earlier, we will not make this
report available for distribution until 30 days after the date of this let-
ter. At that time, copies will be sent to the appropriate congressional
committees; the Administrator, EPA; and other interested parties.

If you have any questions about this report, please contact me on (202)
275-6111. Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix III.

Sincerely yours,

Richard L. Hembra
Director, Environmental Protection

Prge 6                      GAO/RCEDWl24   Eeissned Bebat   Water Treatment   Permit
                      data, EPA was able to changethe summer BETX effluent limits from 9
                      milligrams per liter (maximum daily) and 6 milligrams per liter
                      (monthly average) to 1.3 and 0.7 respectively. The consistently low mea-
                      surements for chromium, nickel, and copper under the 1980 permit led
                      to less metal monitoring under the reissued permit.
                    l EPA was required to apply more stringent technology standards for the
                      type of pollutants discharged by Alyeska. These standards, along with
                      Alyeska’s operating data, were used in developing the effluent limits for
                      BETX, pH, total suspendedsolids, and total organic carbon.
                    l In reviewing the draft permit, Alaska stipulated stricter permit require-
                      ments for the winter BETX limit and for naphthalene, required the estab-
                      lishment of a technical advisory group, and changed some sections of
                      the best management practices plan.6
                    . Citizens alleged that incoming tankers shipped ballast water contami-
                      nated with materials other than crude oil for discharge into the ballast
                      water treatment facility. This led to a requirement that Alyeska deter-
                      mine whether incoming ballast water is contaminated with such materi-
                      als. Other citizen allegations, as well as public comments on the draft
                      permit, resulted in changesto the best managementpractices plan.

                        According to our review of the monitoring reports submitted by Alyeska
Alyeska’s Initial       to EPA for the first 5 months under the reissued permit, Alyeska’s treat-
Efforts to Comply       ment plant has met effluent limits for all pollutants except BETX. The
With New Permit         maximum daily BETX summer effluent limit was exceededby 7 percent
                        for 1 day in June 1989 and by 8 percent for 1 day in August 1989.
                        (These samples are collected and analyzed daily.) According to EPA offi-
                        cials, exceeding the permit’s limit by such a small amount could be due
                        to testing error.

                        Of greater consequence,however, is that Alyeska will need to construct
                        additional treatment facilities by the fall of 1991 to meet the permit’s
                        winter BETX effluent limit. Becauseconstruction of additional treatment
                        facilities is necessary,the permit allows a 29-month schedule to con-
                        struct the facilities in order to comply with the permit’s winter BETX
                        limit. The additional facilities are expected to bring the plant into com-
                        pliance by the fall of 1991 with its winter B!Zl’X limit, as well as resolve
                        the minor instances where the summer BETX limit was exceeded.

                        ‘Under section401 of the CleanWaterAct, a state may requestmorestringent requirementson a
                        petit issuedby EPA.Alaska requestedthe stricter limits for the facility in order to meetstate water
                        quality standardsand state law.

                        Page 4                             GAO/RCEDfI@l24      Beissued Lhllaat Water Treatment Permit
             Alyeska’s treatment plant has met the limits for all pollutants specified
             in the reissued permit except BETX. Alyeska’s operating data indicate
             several instances where the permit’s BETX summer limits were exceeded
             by a small amount. Of greater consequence,Alyeska will need to con-
             struct expanded treatment facilities by the fall of 1991 in order to meet
             the reissued permit’s BETX winter limit, which must be met no later than
             29 months after the permit’s effective date. The expanded treatment
             facilities will address the minor instances where the summer limit was
             exceeded.Furthermore, several reporting requirements have been
             deferred or changed. According to EPA officials, representatives of Aly-
             eska, Alaska, and EPA are currently near a settlement on the specifics of
             each requirement, and the agreementswill be reflected in a modified
             permit expected to be released for public comment by June 1990.

             Alyeska operates a water treatment plant at its oil pipeline terminal at
Background   Port Valdez, Alaska, to treat ballast water (sea water that is carried in
             oil tankers to provide stability, which can be contaminated with oil)
             before it is discharged into surface waters. The plant is the largest dis-
             charger of effluents into Port Valdez.3

             The Clean Water Act of 1972 requires plants like Alyeska’s to obtain a
             NPDES permit, regulating the types and amounts of pollutants that can be
             discharged. EPA issued Alyeska’s first ballast water treatment permit in
             1974. The permit was reissued in 1980. The permit expired in 1983
             before EPA reissued the permit. As a result, the permit was administra-
             tively continued and the facility operated under an extension of the
             1980 permit.

             In 1987, we reported on EPA’s controls over pollutants discharged into
             Port Valdez by Alyeska at its terminal4 The review focused on (1) why
             EPA had not reissued a NPDES permit with updated pollution controls for
             Alyeska’s ballast water treatment plant and (2) whether EPA had effec-
             tively monitored and enforced the conditions of Alyeska’s existing per-
             mit. Our report found that EPA did not reissue the permit on time in 1983
             becauseof higher priority work, staffing limitations, and the absenceof
             funds to hire technical expertise. The report noted that EPA had taken a
             series of enforcement and other actions to ensure the plant’s compliance
             with the permit’s requirements, particularly for the BGTX effluent limit,
             3An effluent is wastewater that has heen treated and discharged.

             4Water Polh~tion: EPA Cmtmls Over Ballast Water at Trans-Alaska Pipeline Marine Terminal (GAO/
                     7-118, June 18, 1987).

             Page 2                              GAO/llCEM&l~        ll.daaned Ihllaat Water Treatment Permit