In this issue:
  • Message from the district
  • New in 2018: virtual amalgam inspections
  • EPA amalgam rule reporting recap
  • Household mercury disposal
Message from the district

The end of this year will mark the 10-year anniversary of Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District's local amalgam management requirements for dental clinics. The district implemented these requirements to minimize mercury to the district's treatment plant, which is regulated to a very low level for mercury.
We've come a long way since then. As shown in the graph, the level of mercury in incoming wastewater at the plant is much lower than it was before the requirement took effect (marked by the green dashed line). Mercury has also decreased in our treated wastewater, meaning less mercury is reaching local streams.
You helped achieve this reduction by taking actions to keep mercury out of the drain, including installing amalgam separators, using chairside traps, avoiding the use of bleach in suction lines, and more. These actions are still important today to keep mercury levels low. Every time you take steps to keep amalgam out of the sewer system, you are taking steps to keep our waters clean and safe.

We appreciate your continued work to minimize mercury, and we wish you a happy and healthy new year.

Best regards,

Catherine Harris and Emily Jones
Pollution prevention specialists
New in 2018: virtual amalgam inspections
In recent years, the district has visited about a third of area clinics each year to go over amalgam management practices. Visiting 30-plus clinics took a lot of driving, documenting visit notes and finding time within clinics' busy schedules for an inspection.

In 2018, we rolled out a tool that allows us to capture amalgam management information remotely from a computer or phone. This "virtual inspection" collects pictures and information about a clinic's amalgam management practices, such as making sure the amalgam separator is not too full. The submitted reports immediately appear in the district's reporting system, making it simple to review practices. This tool also saves the time and fuel of driving to area clinics.

We thank the clinics that completed the virtual inspection this year. As this was the first time this tool was used, we appreciate your adaptability in adjusting to a new reporting system. In coming years, you can expect the district to continue using this tool to collect amalgam management information.
EPA amalgam reporting recap
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a federal rule that requires all dental dischargers that handle amalgam waste to follow practices to keep amalgam out of the sewer and to certify that they are following these practices.

This year, the district collected the EPA one-time compliance report in place of the usual annual certification report for the district's local requirements. At the time of this newsletter, 109 out of 120 known clinics in our area have returned a full report -- thank you to the clinics that have returned their report, and if you haven't returned your report, please do so promptly!

While the EPA requires only a one-time report, the district plans to continue collecting annual reports to verify that clinics are keeping up with important amalgam management practices. Also, you'll need to complete the EPA compliance report in the following circumstances:

If you have any questions about amalgam reporting, visit our dental pollution prevention webpage or contact Emily or Catherine.
Household mercury disposal
Dental amalgam is one source of mercury to wastewater treatment plants, but it's not the only source. Historically, mercury was used in many products, including medical devices, paint, thermostats, barometers, chemicals and more.

In the district's outreach to individuals, we promote the proper disposal of mercury-containing materials at Dane County Clean Sweep. Mercury-containing products, like thermometers, should never be placed in the trash or drain, since those disposal routes could introduce mercury to the environment. Clean Sweep accepts mercury products and other household hazardous waste and disposes of them in an appropriate manner.

You already dispose of mercury properly at work; you can be a water protector at home, too, by taking household mercury-containing materials to Clean Sweep.

Clean Sweep also has a small business waste program that some dental clinics use to dispose of amalgam waste. This program can also be used for disposal of non-controlled medications, so if you have expired medications at your clinic, this is a way to dispose of them.