The EPA Regulation on amalgam separators is a long and somewhat confusing document that requires an extensive knowledge of mercury amalgam and amalgam separators. M.A.R.S applauds any organization, government group or company that attempts to supply the Dental Industry with an easy to understand explanation of what is expected from Dental Practices to guarantee their compliance. Since the regulation was sent to print July 14th, 2017 there has been a substantial release of conflicting information on the EPA Regulation, confusing Dental Professionals and potentially leaving many of them non-compliant.
Correcting Accidental Misinformation
Many Dental Professionals, even Local Control Groups like Water Treatment Plants, look to the Dental Industry giants similar to the American Dental Association for the right information on topics like the EPA Regulation. M.A.R.S was pleased to see the ADA has taken it upon themselves to make the EPA Regulation accessible and understandable for Dental Professionals who may not have the time to read the EPA Regulation.
Unfortunately, mistakes can even be made by an organization like the American Dental Association. Many look to the ADA for the right information, when they accidentally release misinformation, the Dental Industry sees the information as correct, which could result in confusion. Image 1 shows the “EPA Amalgam Recycling Rule” flow chart released from the ADA on September 8th, 2017. Though most of the details on this flowchart are accurate, two significant points were close to being correct but were missing vital information;
“Installed amalgam separators must comply with the following best management practices; Maintain by replacing amalgam retaining cartridge, separator canister or units as directed by the manufacturer or annually, whichever comes first.”
Though this statement was very close to the EPA Regulation, there is one addition the ADA seems to have accidentally added which was “or annually” which made their statement incorrect. Below is a direct quote from the EPA Regulation;
“The amalgam retaining units must be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s schedule as specified in the manufacturer’s operating manual or when the amalgam retaining unit has reached the maximum level, as specified by the manufacturer in the operating manual, at which the amalgam separator can perform to the specified efficiency, whichever comes first.” (§ 441.30 Pretreatment standards for existing sources PSES – On Page 27177)
A conversation the President of M.A.R.S had with the EPA on November 2, 2017, confirmed all amalgam separators are to be maintained to manufacturer’s specifications. The ADA may have been confused as most filter type amalgam separators require their systems to be maintained at a minimum of every 12 months or when full, which usually occurs on average every 6-8 months. Systems like the M.A.R.S LibertyBOSS does not require maintenance or inspection for up to 3 years.
Ohio on the EPA Regulation
In addition to the regular maintenance of amalgam separators, as mentioned in the Ohio EPA Flow Chart in Image 2, if an amalgam separator manufacturer requires routine inspections an inspection log is needed to be kept on record for up to three years. Most filter type amalgam separators require weekly checks; the SolmeteX Hg5 NXT supplies an inspection log for the Dental Practice to keep track of their regular required examinations. If you have a NO maintenance amalgam separator, which is designed never to require inspections, an inspection log will not be necessary.
“Separator already installed: Good until June 14, 2027, or unit needs to be replaced, whichever comes first.”
This statement is referring to any Dental Practice who installed an amalgam separator before June 14th, 2017. Though the statement made by the ADA is technically right, it does require a disclaimer, as there is more to the EPA Regulation regarding “Grandfather” than mentioned. The following is a direct line from the EPA Regulation regarding existing amalgam separators;
“The final rule allows dental offices to continue to operate existing amalgam separators for their lifetime or ten years (whichever comes first), as long as the dental discharger complies with the other rule requirements including the specified BMPs, operation and maintenance, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. Once the separator needs to be replaced or the ten year period has ended, dental offices will need to replace the amalgam separator with one that meets the requirements of the final rule.”(Second column, in the 1st – 9th line of the third paragraph under D. Requirements 1. Performance Standard, on page 27162)
What this segment of the EPA Regulation is stating; you are allowed to keep your current amalgam separator, as long as it meets the required standards. If your Local Control Group, such as Water Treatment Plants, finds that your amalgam separator does not meet their standards, they have the right to require you to replace your amalgam separator with better technology.
When purchasing an amalgam separator, it is good practice to ensure the manufacturer of the compliance product offers a written guarantee to comply with all current or future standards. A Written Guarantee of Compliance should state that the manufacturer will make the appropriate changes to your amalgam separator, at their cost, if your amalgam separator is found not meeting your local standards.
Double Check your Sources
According to the EPA, the ADA has been made aware of their mistake and trusts that the ADA will be doing what is in their power to correct the misinformation they gave their members and the Dental Industry. M.A.R.S has written this blog as we feel it is essential to assist trusted governing bodies like the ADA in ensuring their members have the right information to guarantee their compliance.
It is encouraged that Dental Professionals always double check your source’s information, even with a reputable source such as the ADA. As the theme of this blog would suggest, even reliable sources can make mistakes. If you are uncertain the information you have received is correct, try reaching out to your Local Control Groups such as your local Water Treatment Plants or local EPA.
M.A.R.S strives to be a leading source of information on the EPA Amalgam Separator Regulation. We are continually in contact with experts, Water Treatment Plants, and the EPA to ensure the information we provide our followers is correct and the most up-to-date. If you were to have any questions about amalgam separators, evacuation line cleaners, and the EPA Amalgam Separator Regulation, please do not hesitate to contact our experts at 1-866-594-3648 or follow us at www.marsbiomed.com to read our weekly release of updated information.
1. Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Dental Category – https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/06/14/2017-12338/effluent-limitations-guidelines-and-standards-for-the-dental-category
2. Ohio EPA Flow Chart – http://www.epa.ohio.gov/Portals/35/pretreatment/AmalgamFlowChart.pdf