Nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 50 percent of mercury entering publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities comes from amalgam discharged by dental practices. To reduce this toxic metal in treatment facilities, the EPA established federal requirements for dental practices to properly manage amalgam waste. These requirements are established in chapter 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations part 441 (commonly called the Dental Amalgam Rule).
Dental amalgam, a common filling material, is made mostly of mercury and a mixture of other heavy metals: silver, tin, copper, and zinc. When introduced into the environment, mercury from amalgam has a toxic effect on aquatic organisms. The Albany-Millersburg Water Reclamation Facility is not designed to remove mercury, so any mercury discharged from dental practices has the potential to enter the Willamette river. Controlling amalgam discharges from dental practices benefits the health of our rivers.
The City’s role
The EPA requires that the City of Albany implement the rule for dental practices that discharge wastewater to the publicly owned wastewater treatment facility.
Dental practice required Best Management Practices (BMP)s:
- Install, operate, and maintain an approved amalgam separator.
- Inspect the amalgam separator(s), at a minimum, once per month to ensure proper operation and confirm that there is no bypass of the separator.
- Repair or replace defective amalgam removal equipment/components in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Maintain the amalgam separator(s) regularly by replacing retaining cartridges, separator canisters, filters, and/or other treatment units annually, or whenever the unit reaches the manufacturer’s design capacity, whichever comes first.
- Do not use oxidizing or acidic cleaners to flush dental unit water lines.
- Collect scrap amalgam from chair-side traps, screens, vacuum pump filters, dental tools, and/or other collection devices for off-site disposal. Scrap amalgam must not be flushed down the drain.
- Maintain logs documenting amalgam separator maintenance activities and waste amalgam disposal.
- Maintain records for three years of the handling and disposal of amalgam, maintenance, and service of amalgam separators, and also keep records of x-ray fixer recycling.
- Follow the Oregon Dental Association’s Best Management Practices of Dental Waste.
Required to implement BMPs:
- All dental practices that place or remove amalgam, such as offices, large dental institutions, schools, and clinics.
Exempt from BMPs:
- Dental specialty practices like oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology or surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, or prosthodontics.
- Mobile units.
- Dental practices that do not place or remove amalgam except in limited, emergency, unplanned, or unanticipated circumstances.
A one-time report is required to be completed and submitted by all dental Practices, including those that are exempt from the BMPs:
City of Albany
310 Waverly Drive NE
Albany, OR 97321
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