A settlement announcement proposed on Wednesday, March 16 by the Environmental Protection Agency will require the Versant Nord borough to make infrastructure investments to comply with solid and hazardous waste management rules and prevention rules. oil spills.
The borough will have to hire an independent third-party auditor to ensure the third-party auditor will ensure the compliance requirements of the bylaw are successfully implemented and pay a civil penalty of $6.5 million.
The EPA said a multi-year environmental investigation of the borough found violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which regulates solid and hazardous waste, and the Clean Water Act (CWA), in many numerous owned and operated facilities at Utqiagvik, Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay. Many of the violations resulted from the borough’s failure to properly manage and store thousands of barrels of oil and hazardous waste in these communities, some of which resulted in oil spills.
“This settlement will help protect the health of sensitive North Slope Borough communities and ecosystems,” said Larry Starfield, acting deputy administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Alleged RCRA violations include the borough’s unauthorized storage of hazardous waste; lack of identification and characterization of hazardous waste; unauthorized transport of hazardous waste; shipping hazardous waste without proper manifest and floor disposal restriction notice; non-compliant management of universal waste; and failure to properly label used oil containers. Many drums of solid and hazardous waste are poorly stored outdoors, accessible to borough residents and exposed to the environment. Some drums contained corrosive, flammable or toxic waste and were not properly labeled as hazardous.
The EPA also stated that the borough failed to safely store and manage oil in accordance with CWA oil pollution prevention regulations, intended to prevent oil spills, at 70 of its facilities. The violations contributed to at least two oil spills in wetlands near Kasegaluk Lagoon, Kaktovik Lagoon and Pipsuk Bight. Oil spills in this sensitive arctic tundra habitat can harm fish and other wildlife, as well as downstream waters that are important to Alaska Natives, including hunting, fishing, and subsistence gathering.
The borough is committed to closing all unauthorized hazardous waste storage facilities; develop a comprehensive waste management plan to minimize generation and ensure proper tracking and management of solid and hazardous waste; build or upgrade a licensed hazardous waste storage facility; revise its CWA Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures Plan; install adequate secondary containment around oil storage containers; and develop an integrity testing program for oil storage containers that conforms to applicable industry standards.
Additionally, borough officials have agreed to identify a full-time environmental officer and will hire an independent third-party auditor to ensure that the Consent Decree compliance requirements are successfully implemented.