News Feature | December 30, 2016

EPA Removes Fillings Wastewater Regulation

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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Mercury-laden fillings that are flushed down drains from dental offices will not be regulated under a new U.S. EPA rule.

EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, signed the final rule on Dec. 15.

The final dental amalgam rule, according to Bloomberg BNA, will require dental offices to install amalgam separators. It is a device specifically designed in order to remove mercury and other metals from wastewater.

Dentists are also responsible for making sure that “they don’t flush scrap from mercury fillings down drains, and must clean water lines using oxidizing cleaners.” However, the final rule does not require that wastewater utilities monitor and report on all of the more than 100,000 dental offices that fall under the EPA’s jurisdiction.

Cynthia Finley, regulatory affairs director for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA that the EPA rule does, however, require a one-time certification from the dental offices that the amalgam separator is installed.

“We were very happy to see EPA removed the dental sector from categorical industrial users and significant industrial users because it helps reduce the burdens on publicly owned treatment plants,” Finley said.

The final rule applies to publicly owned wastewater treatment plants, “which must ensure that the wastewater they receive directly from industrial plants and factories is pretreated to effluent limits set by the EPA.”

According to Claudio Ternieden, a government affairs director for the Water Environment Federation, “the EPA rule allows flexibility to wastewater treatment plants that have to enforce the rule.”

The EPA also stated that it recognized that dental offices “discharge significantly less quantities of pollutants as well as volumes of wastewater than industries regulated under categorical pretreatment standards.”

“We believe this new rule — which is a federal standard — is preferable to a patchwork of rules and regulations across various states and localities,” American Dental Association President Gary Roberts, said in a Dec. 15 statement that accompanied the rule’s release.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "My Root Canal, January 2008" Lorenia © 2008 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/