Denise Koch

MS 1999, Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

Tackling air & water pollution in Alaska

Denise is a public servant who has tackled some of Alaska’s toughest and most contentious environmental health problems. She implemented the nation’s first regulatory program, passed by voter initiative, for cruise ship wastewater and air pollution emissions. Denise worked to develop a program that achieved the initiative’s goals while balancing various interests. Today, many cruise ships in Alaska’s waters use the most advanced wastewater treatment equipment in the world. Denise also worked to gain state control over wastewater discharge permitting in Alaska.

In Fairbanks, Denise and her team worked extensively with the borough mayor to improve air quality while avoiding over-regulation and pushing for flexibility and funding from the EPA to solve the problem in a way that works for the community. These efforts led to limits on wood burning during periods of poor air quality and an air quality alert system. As director of the state’s program to prevent and respond to spills of oil, hazardous substances and clean contaminated sites, her focus has been on establishing a sustainable budget for the division and addressing PFAS.

Affiliations: Director, Spill Prevention and Response, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

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