• Dental Amalgam Control Program FAQ

    What is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Dental Office Point Source Category?

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Dental Office Point Source Category is a new regulatory program consisting of Pretreatment Standards, best management practices (BMPs), and other requirements meant to reduce discharges of mercury and other metals from dental offices into municipal sewerage treatment plants known as publicly owned treatment works (POTWs).

    What is the regulatory basis for this new program?

    The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, established the National Pretreatment Program (NPP) to address indirect discharges from industries to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs).  The NPP, published in 40 CFR Part 403, provides the regulatory basis to require nondomestic dischargers to comply with Pretreatment Standards to ensure that the goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA) are attained.

    What is a Publicly Owned Treatment Works?

    Publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) collect wastewater from homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities and transport it via a series of pipes, known as a collection system, to the treatment plant(s).  The treatment plant then removes harmful organisms and other contaminants from the sewage so the wastewater can be discharged safely into a receiving stream.  Without treatment, sewage creates bad odors; contaminates rivers, lakes, and water supplies; and spreads disease.  POTWs are designed to treat typical household waste, biodegradable commercial waste, and biodegradable industrial waste, however, the treatment plants are neither designed for nor able to remove toxic or non-conventional pollutants that commercial and industrial facilities discharge.

    Who will enforce these new regulations?

    Unlike other environmental programs that rely on federal or state governments to implement and enforce specific requirements, under the NPP, most of the responsibility rests on local municipalities.  In general, all large POTWs are required to establish a local pretreatment program and must enforce all national pretreatment standards and requirements in addition to any more stringent local requirements necessary to protect the site-specific conditions of their treatment processes.  Consequently, a POTW with an approved pretreatment program is the Control Authority.

    In central and north Orange County, that local municipality is the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD).  OCSD is a special district, a separate local government that delivers a limited public service (sewerage collection and treatment) to a limited geographical area.  Special districts are instrumental in localizing the costs and benefits of public services.  Initially formed in 1954 to take over wastewater treatment from its member city predecessors, OCSD is now entering its 64th year of protecting public health and the environment by providing effective wastewater collection, treatment, and recycling.

    Who is affected?

    The new Dental Office Point Source categorical regulations apply to wastewater discharges to POTWs from offices where the practice of dentistry is performed including large institutions such as dental schools and clinics; permanent or temporary offices, home offices; and dental offices owned and operated by federal, state, or local governments including military bases. 

    The EPA’s final rule includes a provision to significantly reduce and streamline the General Pretreatment Regulations for the dental offices, a.k.a. Dental Dischargers.  To simplify implementation of these regulations, the EPA has established that Dental Dischargers are not Significant Industrial Users or Categorical Industrial Users unless designated such by their Control Authority.  This regulatory approach eliminated many General Pretreatment Program requirements that that would have otherwise applied.

    What must Dental Offices do to comply with the new Dental Office Point Source categorical regulations?

    All Dental Dischargers must submit a Compliance Report to their Control Authority.  Dental dischargers that place or remove amalgam must also operate and maintain an amalgam separator, and must not discharge scrap amalgam or use certain kinds of line cleaners as detailed below.

    The program requires dental dischargers that place or remove amalgam to use technology-based pretreatment such as an amalgam separator (pretreatment is a term that refers to treating wastewater before discharge to a POTW), and to implement two BMPs:

    Waste amalgam including, but not limited to, dental amalgam from chairside traps, screens, vacuum pump filters, dental tools, cuspidors, or collection devices, must not be discharged to a POTW, and
    Dental unit water lines, chair-side traps, and vacuum lines that discharge amalgam process wastewater to a POTW must not be cleaned with oxidizing or acidic cleaners, including but not limited to bleach, chlorine, iodine and peroxide that have a pH lower than 6 or greater than 8.
    The Dental Discharger must also maintain records of various activities as defined in the Dental Office Point Source regulations.

    Are there exemptions?

    Yes, Dental Dischargers that do not place dental amalgam, and do not remove dental amalgam except in limited emergency or unplanned, unanticipated circumstances are exempt from any further requirements of the rule program provided they certify such in their Compliance Report to the Control Authority (OCSD).

    Dental dischargers that exclusively practice one or more of the following dental specialties:

    Oral Pathology,
    Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology,
    Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery,
    Periodontics, or

    and do not engage in the practice of amalgam restorations or removals, and therefore do not have any wastewater discharges containing dental amalgam should download the Limited Dental Discharger Compliance Report from OCSD’s website.  These regulations do not currently apply to Dental Mobile Units.

    What are the deadlines for compliance?

                New Dental Offices

    The compliance date for new dental offices ("New Sources") is the effective date of the rule, July 14, 2017.  New sources must immediately comply with all requirements of the Dental Office Point Source Category, and submit a Compliance Report to the Control Authority no later than 90 days following the introduction of wastewater into a POTW.  (New Source does not include an ownership change.)

                Existing Dental Offices

    The effective date of the rule is July 14, 2017.

    Existing dental offices must comply by July 14, 2020, and must submit a Compliance Report to the Control Authority no later than October 12, 2020.

                •  Existing amalgam separators may be operated for their lifetime or ten years, whichever comes first.

                •  When a separator needs replacement, or the ten-year period has ended and the separator does not meet the standard of the final rule, a dental office must replace it with one that meets the requirements of the final rule.

                Following Ownership Transfer

    For existing sources, the new owner must submit a new Compliance Report to the Control Authority no later than 90 days after the transfer of ownership.

    Who must follow the Best Management Practices (BMPs)?

    All dental practitioners must comply with the BMPs, including the dentists, hygienists, and any other personnel in the practice or clinic, when said individuals handle dental amalgam, or amalgam derived waste.   Train the appropriate staff in the manufacturer’s recommended operating and maintenance procedures for the amalgam separator; the proper handling, management, and disposal of amalgam materials and wastes; and the correct methods for cleaning chair-side traps, vacuum lines, and dental tools. The EPA suggests dental offices consider use of signs displayed prominently in the office or electronic calendar alerts to remind staff of dates to perform and document routine maintenance and inspections.  It is also recommended that the dental office maintain a log to demonstrate compliance with the BMP training activities. 

    Who is responsible for completing and submitting the Compliance Report Form?

    All operator/proprietor, a practitioner/owner, or the general partners must complete the “Dental Discharger Compliance Report” form for each dental office location.

    An Exempt Dental Discharger, a dental office that has eliminated the use of dental amalgam and only expects to remove amalgam to provide immediate treatment, must complete the “Limited Dental Discharger Compliance Report” form.

    Who must sign the Compliance Report Form?

    Per 40 CFR 441.50(a)(2), the Compliance Report must be signed and certified by a responsible corporate officer, a general partner or proprietor if the dental facility is a partnership or sole proprietorship, or a duly authorized representative in accordance with the requirements of 40 CFR 403.12(l).

                Responsible Corporate Officer (Authorized Representative)

    a)         If the applicant or User is a corporation:

    (1)        The president, secretary, treasurer, or a vice president of the corporation in charge of a principal business function, or any other person who performs similar policy or decision-making functions for the corporation; or

    (2)        The manager of one or more manufacturing, production, or operation facilities, provided the manager is authorized to make management decisions that govern the operation of the regulated facility including having the explicit or implicit duty of making major capital investment recommendations, and initiate and direct other comprehensive measures to assure long-term environmental compliance with environmental laws and regulations; can ensure that the necessary systems are established or actions taken to gather complete and accurate information for individual Wastewater discharge permit requirements; and where authority to sign documents has been assigned or delegated to the manager in accordance with corporate procedures.

    b)         If the applicant or User is a partnership or sole proprietorship: a general partner or proprietor, respectively.

    c)         If the applicant or User is a federal, state, or local governmental facility: a director or highest official appointed or designated to oversee the operation and performance of the activities of the government facility, or the designee.

                Duly Authorized Representative (Designated Representative*)

    d)         The individuals described in paragraphs (a) through (c) above, as Responsible Officers, may designate an Authorized Representative if the authorization is in writing, the authorization specifies the individual or position responsible for the overall operation of the facility from which the discharge originates or having overall responsibility for environmental matters for the company or organization, and the written authorization is submitted to OCSD.

    e)         An applicant or User not falling within one of the above categories must designate as the Responsible Officer an individual responsible for the overall operation of the facility. The Responsible Officer may designate an Authorized Representative.  (If signed by a duly authorized representative, the Certification must be accompanied by a completed and signed designated signatory form.)  

    * All correspondence regarding all permit and enforcement issues shall be sent to the Designated Signatory.  It is the Designated Signatory’s responsibility to keep the Responsible Officer informed at all times regarding all permit and enforcement issues.  The Responsible Officer remains legally responsible for all wastewater discharge to the sewer from this facility and for ensuring that he is duly informed by the Designated Signatory. 

    How often does the Compliance Report Form need to be submitted?

    In general, only once.  However, a new Certification should be submitted if there is a change in the following:

    Name, location, or ownership interest in the dental practice or clinic, or
    Change in the amalgam separation equipment.
    Do I need to retain a copy of the completed Compliance Report Form?

    Yes.  Per 40 CFR 441.50(a)(5), as long as a Dental facility subject to this part is in operation, or until ownership is transferred, the Dental facility or an agent or representative of the dental facility must maintain this One Time Compliance Report and make it available for inspection in either physical or electronic form.

    Are Dental Dischargers required to submit the Compliance Report in both hard copy and electronic formats?

    Yes.  To ensure Dental facilities only need to mail the report one time, OCSD would like to review the Compliance Report for completeness and accuracy before the hard copy is sent.  Please E-mail the completed electronic file to OCSD before submitting the hard copy of the completed form by post.  OCSD will reply to your E-mail confirming the report’s completeness or reply with suggestions for any deficiencies noted.  Finally, Dental facilities must submit a hard copy original with a “Live Signature” to satisfy the EPA’s requirements.

    How do I submit the Compliance Report Form?
    • E-mail Electronic Adobe PDF
    • Mail Hard Copy with Live Signature
      Orange County Sanitation District
      10844 Ellis Avenue
      Fountain Valley, CA 92708-7018
      Attn:  Merrill Seiler, Div. 620 

      Who can I call for assistance with completing the Compliance Report Form, or if there are additional questions?

      Merrill Seiler, Principal Environmental Specialist
      Office: (714) 593-7436