There are specific laws that govern amalgam separator that is formulated with the intent that the dentists follow the set Dental Best Management Practices or DBMP as desired. It is to encourage the dentists for handling and disposal of amalgam waste. As per the rule, the EPA requires 95% removal efficiency by the amalgam separators. The final rule of EPA on amalgam separators is effective from July 14, 2017, but the date for compliance with it is July 14, 2020.
Amalgam separators are used to remove the amalgam particles from the wastewater so that the amount of amalgam entering into the sewage system can be effectively and significantly reduced. These separators are specifically designed to capture the amalgam particles from wastewater of the dental office. The processes that are used for such amalgam separation includes:
- Combination of all these
There are a few separators that may also use the most effective ion exchange technology to remove the mercury from waste water.
The Best Management Practices
The primary intent of such amalgam separation is to eliminate potential health as well as environmental issues. The amalgam separator is also used when there is a need for any plumbing work that may dislodge amalgam waste that adheres to the inside of the pipes. The rule follows ADA’s own Best Management Practices very closely and integrates three of those BMPs that are:
- Requiring the use of separators
- Prohibiting the providers from flushing down the drain waste amalgam
- Prohibiting the use of bleach or any chlorine containing cleaners
All this prevents any dissolution of solid mercury with the water during cleaning the chair-side traps and the vacuum lines.
Additional Highlights of The Rule
There are also some additional highlights of this rule governing amalgam separator and it includes:
- Dentists practicing oral pathology, maxillofacial and oral radiology and surgery, periodontics, orthodontics and prosthodontics are exempted
- Dentists who only remove less than 5% of amalgam in emergency and unplanned situations but does not place any are also exempted
- All mobile dental u nits are exempted
- Dentists who have separators already are grandfathered for 10 years which is the life of the equipment
Involvement of the EPA
The law for amalgam separator usually applies to all state governments and POTWs but most specifically it applies to the dentists. The involvement of EPA with this rule is very interesting. It takes into account several studies and consulted with different professional organizations and eventually has come up with the details that necessitated the proposed rule. The primary information, sources and studies that they consulted include:
- An alliance of environmental organizations
- The American Dental Association
- The Health Services Industry Detailed Study
- The Environmental Council of the States
- The National Association of Clean Water Agencies
- A study commissioned by the United States Air Force
- Manufacturers of amalgam separators
All the information from all these sources were used and proved to be helpful to the EPA to formulate this rule that balances the interests of all the organizations and accommodates all dentists as well.
The Expectations Of EPA
EPA expects all dentists would follow this rule for using amalgam separator and use this technology to remove 99% of it effectively. The amalgam separators are easy to use and a low-cost technology. Dental offices that do not comply with the rule will require meeting with indirect discharges that are subject to national pretreatment requirements. The EPA expects proper maintenance of the separator according to the manufacturer’s instructions, conduct functionality inspections once in a month so that the level of removal is always at 99%. EPA does exempt those dentists who already have the amalgam separator and expects that those who do not have it will not remove amalgam.