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Disposing of Mercury After a Spill

Q: We had a mercury spill in one of our facilities. The fire department came and cleaned it up, but we now have a package containing the mercury we need to dispose of. They're telling me we need an EPA ID number. What is that and how to I get one? Also, I know the hospital recycles their mercury, it's used in making fluorescent lights. Could we give it to them to recycle?

A: The EPA regulations controlling hazardous waste, such as mercury, requires cradle-to-grave tracking. The system used for this is the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest form. One of the spaces on the manifest requires the waste generating facility to include their EPA number.

The EPA separates out waste generating facilities into three different categories based upon the amount of hazardous waste they generate monthly. Facilities that are Small Quantity Generators (SQG) or Large Quantity Generators (LQG) must obtain EPA identification numbers.

However, most outpatient medical facilities fall into the EPA's lowest category, called Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQG). This category is for facilities that generate less than 220 pounds of hazardous AND less then 2.2 pounds of acute hazardous waste per month. These facilities are not required to obtain an EPA identification number.

As a CESQG, you're responsible for properly identifying and labeling your hazardous waste. Also, you need to ensure that hazardous waste is delivered to a person or facility authorized to manage it.

Finally, the EPA regulates waste. Items that are recycled are not waste according to EPA definitions. Therefore, if you have an option available to recycle your mercury through the program at your local hospital this is the most advantageous route to take. Hope this helps!

For more information about hazardous waste disposal, refer to Tab 8 of your Quality America OSHA Safety Program Manual or Tab 5 of your Dental OSHA Safety Program Manual.

Posted by Quality America on January 23, 2008 | Comments (0)


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