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Amalgam Separators and the New EPA Effluent Guidelines

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Mercury pollution is a worldwide issue. While mercury is released into the air from many sources, dental offices are one of the leading contributors of mercury discharge into the wastewater. Annually, it is estimated that dental offices discharge approximately 5.1 tons of the mercury into US public water treatment facilities (POTWs). For this reason, the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that dental offices across the country need to install a certified amalgam separator, for the proper recycling of amalgam waste, by July 14, 2020.

Currently, more than 100,000 US dental offices place or remove amalgam fillings routinely. Prior to the regulation, only 11 states were mandated to use an amalgam separator. Thousands of dental offices across the United States have been discharging mercury contaminated water into the POTWs through the waste water. Before the advent of amalgam separators, most of this was flushed away in wastewater. Because mercury “bioaccumulates” in food sources, such as fish in the ocean, as well as drinking water, human and environmental exposure has been inevitable.

The new regulation went into effect on July 14, 2017, and states that dental offices that remove or place amalgam now have until July 14, 2020, to install an ISO 11143 certified amalgam separator in order to be compliant with the new standards. The EPA requires that dental office amalgam separators remove at least 99% of the total mercury in wastewater. The waste collected is considered hazardous because of the mercury and silver content of the amalgam.

Newly built or acquired dental offices have 90 days from the date of opening to install an amalgam separator. New offices also must submit a one-time compliance report certifying they are in compliance. Lastly, offices with an existing system in place can continue to use the separator 10 years. However, there are caveats, including operation, maintenance, reporting, and recordkeeping rules.

Exceptions to the new EPA requirement include offices that do not routinely place or remove amalgam such as most surgical, orthodontic, periodontic, and prosthodontic practices. There are rules pertaining to the transfer of ownership of dental offices, the type or standard of amalgam separators that are required, and under what circumstances existing separators may be “grandfathered” if they are functioning properly. As you would expect, there are strict reporting, recordkeeping, and inspection/maintenance requirements.

Find any of this confusing? Solmetex makes it their business to understand the latest regulations and to provide the simplest solution to keeping your dental office in compliance. RAMVAC/DENTALEZ and Solmetex, the industry leader in amalgam separation, have a partnered up to provide the most comprehensive and simple solutions to solving your waste handling needs. The NXT Hg5 series of Amalgam Separators are ISO 11143:2008 certified, have 99%+ rate of separation, and includes a “cradle to grave” recycling solution for all products. And now the NXT Hg5 Amalgam Separator comes with a Practice Waste Solutions Amalgam Bucket for the recycling of all dry amalgam waste, which is also now required by the EPA regulation. Certificates of Compliance are also available 24/7 on Solmetex.com. For more information on the EPA regulation, visit Solmetex.com, as well as, the following websites:

https://www.epa.gov/eg/dental-effluent-guidelines

FAQs: https://www.epa.gov/eg/dental-effluent-guidelines-documents

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-12/documents/dental-office-category_frequent-questions_nov-2017.pdf

https://success.ada.org/en/regulatory-legal/regulatory-campaign-articles/amalgam-rule

 

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