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 Relations. 1 ‘i , ___ -. GAO/RCFD-90-124 united states General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20648 and Resonrces, Community, EconomicDevelopmentDivision B-239048 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 B239o4s 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 I 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 yes Total suspended solids a yes 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 Economic Development Division, Washington, D.C. (160016) Page 18 GAO/lu3m~l24 &Issned Bdaat water Tlvatment Permit . Requests for copies of GAO reports should be sent to: U.S. General Accounting Office Post Office Box 6015 Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877 Telephone 202-275-6241 The fiit five copies of each report are free. Additional copies are $2.00 each. There is a 25% discount on orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a single address. United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Official Business Penalty for Private Use $300 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 chemicals. 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” Legend 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 Contents Letter Appendix I Major Differences Between Alyeska’s 1980 and 1989 Permits for Effluent Limitations and Monitoring Requirements 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 Abbreviations 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 Issues 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 .
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)