EPA Rule on Amalgam Separators

EPA Proposes Amalgam Separator Rule

Nationwide rule requires amalgam separators in every office

In an effort to reduce the discharge of dental amalgam into the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a rule under the Clean Water Act requiring dentists to install amalgam separators.

Studies show that half of the mercury that enters publicly owned treatment works originates from dental amalgam. Tiny particles of amalgam can bypass chairside traps every time an amalgam filling is placed or removed. After water treatment, mercury is distributed back in the form of precipitation and consumed by fish, making its way into our food chain.  

The proposed rule would require all affected dentists to control mercury discharges to publicly owned treatment works. Specifically, it would require them to cut their dental amalgam discharges to a level achievable through the use of amalgam separators and the use of other best management practices. The EPA expects compliance with this proposed rule would cut metal discharge to treatment works, half of it from mercury, by at least 8.8 tons a year.

“The rule would strengthen human health protection by requiring removals based on the use of a technology and practices that approximately 40% of dentists across the country already employ”
– Kenneth Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

The rule would allow dentists to show they are in compliance by installing, operating, and maintaining an amalgam separator. However, if the existing separators in a dental practice do not remove the percentage of amalgam in the proposed requirements, a practice can still be ruled as compliant for the life of the existing separator. Finally, it would limit dental dischargers’ reporting requirements to annual certification and record-keeping instead of wastewater monitoring.

The EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. A public hearing also is scheduled for November 10. The agency expects to finalize the rule in September 2015.