Dental Amalgam Rule

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized technology-based standards under the Clean Water Act to reduce discharge of mercury and other metals from dental offices into municipal wastewater treatment plants, also called publicly owned treatment works. Dental offices that discharge mercury and other metals in amalgam used for fillings, were identified as the main source of mercury, which is eventually entering receiving water bodies and impacting the environment.

The final rule requires dental offices that place or remove amalgam to operate and maintain an amalgam separator to help to prevent discharge and to use the best management practices recommended by the American Dental Association. This rule also requires a one-time certification report.

Who is required to comply?

  • This rule applies to offices where the practice of dentistry is performed, including large institutions such as dental schools and clinics; permanent or temporary offices, home offices, and facilities; and dental offices owned and operated by federal, state or local governments such as military bases.
  • The rule does NOT apply to mobile units or offices where the practice of dentistry consists only of oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, or prosthodontics.

What is required?

  • All amalgam waste from chair side traps, screens, vacuum pump filters, dental tools, cuspidors, and collection devices must be collected and disposed of properly.
  • Oxidizing or acidic cleaners, including but not limited to bleach, chlorine, iodine, and peroxide, that have a pH less than 6 or greater than 8 must NOT be used.
  • Formally documented records of maintenance and inspection performed according to manufacturer recommendations must be retained for a minimum of three years.
  • A one-time compliance report must be submitted to El Paso Water. Dental offices that do not place or remove dental amalgam must also submit the one-time compliance report.

When is this effective?

  • Dental offices in operation prior to July 14, 2017 must install compliant amalgam separators by July 14, 2020. Separators installed prior to June 14, 2017 must be replaced with compliant separators after 10 years of use or when they need to be replaced, whichever comes first
  • Dental offices established ON or AFTER July 14, 2017 must install compliant amalgam separator(s) prior to any discharge into the wastewater collection system.

For additional information, please contact the Pretreatment Program at El Paso Water by calling 915-594-5731.


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