Managing dental waste

Wastewater treatment and disposal are important tools to protect and preserve Minnesota’s water resources. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) works closely with many industries to provide requirements, guidelines and assistance to minimize wastewater pollution. Minnesota’s Mercury Amalgam Separator Program outlines goals and recommended practices to reduce the amount of mercury waste released into the environment from dental operations.

In June 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency promulgated their final Dental Effluent Guidelines Rule under the Clean Water Act, which requires installation of amalgam separators at most dental practices.

MPCA is developing program guidelines and requirements to incorporate the federal requirements into existing state and local programs and this page will be updated in the future.

Minnesota mercury amalgam separator program

In 2007, the MPCA and the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) signed an agreement with the goal of reducing the use and environmental release of mercury in amalgam from dental practices statewide. The agreement includes individual and joint responsibilities for the MPCA and the MDA: PDF icon Memorandum of Understanding

One of the MDA’s key responsibilities in the 2007 agreement was to encourage the installation of amalgam separators by dentists in Minnesota, with the goal that by December 31, 2008, 100% of Minnesota dentists install and maintain amalgam separators and follow American Dental Association Best Management Practices for amalgam waste in their clinical practice.

One of the MPCA’s responsibilities was to establish criteria and a process to identify approved amalgam separator models in consultation with the MDA.

Criteria and process for separator approval

The MPCA developed approval criteria and a process that was approved by the MDA Environment Committee in April 2012: PDF icon Minnesota Amalgam Separator Approval Procedure

In order to be on the list of approved products, a separator must:

  1. be tested against the current ANSI/ADA specification by an accredited testing laboratory
  2. meet the current ANSI/ADA specification
  3. have at least a 99% amalgam particulate recovery rate, calculated as the overall average of the three empty and three simulated full tests in the specification
  4. be issued a certificate by an accredited certification body.

The MPCA sent the procedure to manufacturers of amalgam separators and requested submission of test reports and certificates. The MPCA has received documentation from manufacturers demonstrating that the following separator models meet the approval criteria.

Approved separators for installation in Minnesota

The statewide amalgam separator program and the process for listing approved separators are built on the successful program established in the Twin Cities metropolitan area through the collaborative efforts of Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (the regional wastewater utility) and the Minnesota Dental Association.

The following separators are approved for installation in Minnesota. Only the products listed here may be installed in new or remodeled dental clinics (list shows manufacturer, model, approval date).

Please note that the Solmetex Hg5 separators listed below are no longer being sold, but the CC-5M Collection Container is available and is approved for use with all installed Solmetex Hg5 separators.

Related waste management information for the dental sector

Dental amalgam waste and pretreated dental wastewater (wastewater that has passed through a separator) are classified as Universal Waste. Dental clinics on septic systems must install an amalgam separator and segregate post-separator treated wastewater for management as Universal Waste or delivery to a local wastewater treatment facility that is willing to accept it. See the PDF icon Managing universal wastes fact sheet for additional information.

Other wastes generated in dental clinics are subject to management requirements. See the MPCA’s fact sheet, PDF icon Regulatory consensus on health care issues (w-hw3-35) for additional information.

Dental clinics statewide are eligible to manage their hazardous and universal wastes through the Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) Collection Programs; refer to the program requirements for generators fact sheet for additional information and a list programs operating in the state: PDF icon VSQG Collection Program Requirements for Generators

In the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, solid/hazardous wastes and wastewater from dental clinics are subject to regulation by the counties and wastewater authority Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, respectively.

American Dental Association’s Amalgam Waste Best Management Practices (BMPs) 

Note: Some links on this page may be accessible only with an ADA User ID and password):

PDF icon Best management practices for amalgam waste (ADA)

Information on managing amalgam waste (American Dental Association, October 2007)