Most dental offices in the United States are now required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to install and use amalgam separators to dispose of mercury. To help dental practices transition to this technology by the July 14, 2020 deadline, the EPA is now offering online resources including background information, FAQs, requirements, and documents.
Dental clinics are the main source of mercury discharge into publicly owned treatment works (POTW), the EPA reports, with 5.1 tons of mercury discharged each year. Yet the EPA believes its new guidelines will prevent that tonnage as well as 5.3 tons of other metals found in waste dental amalgam from entering water systems. Additionally, the EPA expects the total annual cost of the final rule to range from $59 million to $61 million.
The rule applies to offices, including large institutions such as dental schools and clinics where practicing dentistry discharges to POTWs. It does not apply to mobile units or offices where the practice of dentistry consists of oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, or prosthodontics. Control authorities, which often are the state or the POTW, are responsible for oversight associated with the rule.
Among other queries, the frequently asked questions include:
- What are the basic requirements of the rule?
- What are the compliance deadlines?
- Do I have to replace my existing separator?
- What information must be in my one-time compliance report?
- What about state and local requirements?
Furthermore, the resources include links to state agency contacts, pretreatment program contacts, and a sample dental office compliance report, in addition to the Final Rule establishing the requirements in the Federal Register, the Technical and Economic Development Document, and a fact sheet. For more information about the Dental Effluent Guidelines, dental professionals are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org.