EPA rule cuts back on mercury from dental offices in sewer systems



A new Environmental Protection Agency rule will prevent mercury discharge from dental offices from entering into municipal sewer systems. 

After July 14, dental offices that place or remove dental amalgam, the material used in cavity fillings, must install amalgam separators, according to a City of Bloomington press release. 

The rule, published on June 14, was part of the EPA’s General Pretreatment Regulations. Compliance with the rule is expected to reduce mercury discharge by 5.1 tons. Other metals are expected to be reduced by 5.3 tons, according to the EPA’s website. 

Existing dental offices have until July 14, 2020 to comply with the new rule, while new dental offices must comply with it immediately. 

Dental offices are the main source of mercury discharges to publicly owned treatment works. Approximately 103,000 dental offices use amalgam and most of these offices send their wastewater to publicly owned treatment works, according to the EPA’s website. 

Other metals, such as silver and tin, will also be captured in amalgam separators, preventing the metals from filtering into the environment. Once mercury is captured by a separator, it can be recycled. 

The City of Bloomington Utilities is working with local dental offices to ensure their compliance with the rule. 

Emily Eckelbarger

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