By Tony Edwards, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

June 13, 2017 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will lift its hold on finalized standards to reduce the discharge of mercury and other metals in wastewater from dental practices into municipal sewage treatment plants on June 14, 2017. The rule will go into effect on July 14, 2017, with a compliance date for dental offices of July 14, 2020.

In December 2016, the agency originally issued its finalized standards, which were scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 24, 2017. However, on January 20, the Trump administration issued a memo that directed federal agencies to "immediately withdraw" final rules that had been sent to the Office of the Federal Register but were not yet published. The EPA complied and withdrew the regulation at that time.

“This new rule ... is preferable to a patchwork of rules and regulations across various states and localities.”
— Gary Roberts, DDS, president of the ADA

Any proposed regulation from the EPA and other agencies does not become official until it is published by the Office of the Federal Register in the Federal Register.

Now the agency announced that the 94-page "Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Dental Category" will be published in the Federal Register on June 14. A prepublication copy of the guidelines is available here.

The ADA believes that the regulations represent a fair and reasonable approach to the issue, according to President Gary Roberts, DDS.

"We believe this new rule -- which is a federal standard -- is preferable to a patchwork of rules and regulations across various states and localities," Dr. Roberts stated in a press release.

Amalgam separators

The final rule requires dental offices to use amalgam separators and two best management practices recommended by the ADA. The EPA noted that this final rule includes a provision to significantly reduce and streamline the oversight and reporting requirements that would otherwise apply.

The regulations will require that a facility that places or removes amalgam will be subject to the following best management practices:

  • Collect and recycle scrap amalgam.
  • Clean the chairside traps with nonbleach or nonchlorine cleanser so as not to release mercury.

In a previous statement, the EPA noted that compliance with this final rule will annually reduce the discharge of mercury by 5.1 tons and also 5.3 tons of other metals found in dental amalgam waste into municipal sewage treatment plants.

The ADA agreed on the goal of capturing dental amalgam waste.

"The ADA shares the EPA's goal of ensuring that dental amalgam waste is captured so that it may be recycled," Dr. Roberts stated.

NRDC lawsuit

In February 2017, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to have the regulation become official.

The case is Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al., which was set to be heard by U.S. Justice J. Paul Oetken. At press time, the NRDC had not responded to queries to see if the lawsuit would continue now that the regulations will be going into effect.


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