NACWA Scores Advocacy Win in Final Dental Amalgam Rule

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EPA signed the final Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Dental Category, also known as the “Dental Amalgam Rule,” for a second time on June 9.  The final rule is significantly different than the proposed rule, due in part to the extensive comments submitted by NACWA.  NACWA’s comments explained why the proposal created too much of a burden on publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), and representatives from EPA and NACWA held several follow-up discussions about these comments. 

The final rule requires all dental offices that place or remove dental amalgam to install separators, and to follow two best management practices. Dental offices must provide a one-time certification to their Control Authority documenting that they have installed a separator which meets the requirements of the rule, and that the separator is operated and maintained properly.  Dental offices are not classified as “Categorical Industrial Users (CIUs)” or “Significant Industrial Users (SIUs)” unless specified by the local Control Authority.  Although POTWs are responsible for collecting the certifications from dental offices, they have no responsibility to enforce compliance.

The final rule was originally signed on December 15, 2016, but was never published in the Federal Register due to the regulatory freeze order issued by the Trump Administration on January 20, which required that all regulations received by the Office of the Federal Register, but not yet published, be withdrawn.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) subsequently sued EPA, challenging the procedures used to withdraw the rule.  EPA’s response brief on the lawsuit is due on June 14.  

NACWA’s Pretreatment and Pollution Prevention Committee discussed the rule at its recent meeting and there was widespread agreement from committee members that NACWA should support the final rule given the significant changes made by EPA.  EPA plans to conduct outreach to POTWs to help them understand and implement the new rule, and NACWA will be discussing these plans with EPA.  Please contact Cynthia Finley with any questions or concerns about the rule.