We find that the application including the Draft Waste Management Permit (draft permit) is incomplete and lacks critical data and analysis that would provide the information necessary for either the Department of Environmental Conservation (Dept.) or the public to make an informed decision. 18 AAC 15.020 provides that an applicant must serve a complete application to the Dept. The above referenced draft permit is incomplete. We request the Dept. under 18 AAC 15.040 exercise its authority to request additional information as described in this comment letter and then resubmit an updated draft permit for public comment once a complete application has been received.
In addition, the application and draft permit indicate a hydrological connection exists between the proposed upper diffuser and a nearby surface water, Waterfall Creek. We request that the applicant conduct a tracer study to definitively eliminate the possible connection or withdraw this application and apply for an Alaska Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for this project.
The application and draft permit is based on the Plan of Operation (POO) and supporting documents, collectively “the POO”. The application and draft permit fail to describe critical aspects of individual project components and performance of the project in its entirety. Among the components missing necessary for analysis and critical to the operation of the Land Application Disposal system (LAD) are the performance of the avalanche deflection structures, power supply and fuel tanks, and access during the winter. The application fails to consider the overall functioning of the LAD during freezing temperatures and deep snow cover, overflow or failure conditions, or from the threat of avalanches. The application provides no information on the effects of locating avalanche mounds on top of the lower diffuser.
The application also fails to consider the structural stability and long-term performance of the avalanche diversion structures separate from their role in the LAD.
The baseline groundwater and surface water data is insufficient for any type of meaningful effects analysis. Despite assurances that a substantial effort was made to define the baseline conditions of the natural environment in the project area (See Palmer Stage 2 Plan of Operation (henceforth “POO” 2.0 at 9), the draft permit fails to support the conclusion that the “data from these efforts contribute to a fundamental understanding of the natural environment in the project area, including a baseline of environmental conditions. They define an environmental backdrop that Constantine can design around, and one against which Constantine can detect potential changes, over time.” See POO App. A 1.0 at 1.
Pre-discharge groundwater monitoring wells were only tested twice 11 days apart. Many surface water monitoring sites have only been sampled 4 times. This level of data does not meet basic thresholds for data creditability. This lack of a realistic starting point is compounded by an ineffectual monitoring system. As a result the groundwater and surface water quality data is woefully insufficient in both quantity and quality to be used to determine background natural conditions for the reasons of monitoring. Baseline data quality sensitivity all around is very low.
SEACC requests the Dept. withdraw this application and obtain from the applicant sufficient information to fully evaluate the proposed operation under its authority at 18 AAC 15.040 (Requests for additional information) including a clear, complete design for the LAD system. The Dept. should request the applicant to collect data representative of all four seasons in accordance with Dept. guidelines for each monitoring site. “A minimum data set consisting of 10 valid data points within the last five years is necessary to perform a valid statistical analysis. Limiting data to the last five years ensures data is timely and relevant to the current analysis.” See Reasonable Potential Procedure for Water Quality Based Effluent Limits Development Guide at 4 (Jan. 2009).
The applicant also should relocate the mid-Glacier Creek monitoring station currently designated P-27. This site will not detect any significant change in water quality, over time, that may be coincide with Constantine’s underground exploration activities because of the upstream influence of Oxide Creek. See POO App. D2 Figure 2. SEACC further suggests applicant utilize a contract laboratory certified by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation be used to establish defensible baseline data and for subsequent monitoring. See list of certified labs at http://dec.alaska.gov/spar/csp/lab-approval/list-of-approved-labs.