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Amalgam separator deadline remains intact

EPA states flexibility when enforcing compliance

April 17, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The deadline for dental offices to install amalgam separators remains intact but the Environmental Protection Agency announced March 26 that it will be initiating “a new temporary enforcement discretion policy” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under a federal rule adopted by the EPA in 2017, many dental practices will need to install an amalgam separator by July 14.

In an April 15 letter to the EPA, the ADA thanked Administrator Andrew Wheeler for the agency’s flexibility during the pandemic.

“Your temporary enforcement discretion policy will help a number of dentists whose practices have been substantially impacted by this extraordinary public health crisis,” wrote ADA President Chad P. Gehani and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin. “As you know, most dentists have until July 20 to install an amalgam separator. The requirement is part of an Environmental Protection Agency regulation requiring dentists to reduce discharges of amalgam restorations into publicly owned wastewater systems.”

The ADA worked with EPA for nearly a decade to come up with a rule that was fair and reasonable and consistent with ADA’s Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste. The ADA also “spent years working with EPA and state and local wastewater control authorities to make compliance as fast and seamless and inexpensive as possible,” the letter said.

“It is difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars to install a separator by [July 14] when many dentists have had to either close their offices or operate on a very limited schedule. In fact, many dentists are struggling just to pay their bills.

“No one should have to choose between keeping their staff on payroll, paying for an expensive piece of new equipment, or closing their business entirely. We therefore appreciate your willingness to be flexible in enforcing certain federal environmental compliance obligations during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the letter concluded.

The ADA Center for Professional Success has resources available for member dentists looking for more information. The ADA.org/RecycleAmalgam web resource includes:

• A flowchart to help dentists determine what course of action to take.
• In-depth FAQs from the ADA and the EPA on how to comply with the rule.
• An on-demand webinar in which ADA and EPA representatives provide information and answer questions from participating professionals.

Visit ADA.org/virus for the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic.