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Hospitals, nursing homes, doctor offices, clinics, emergency care facilities and veterinarian offices have all used or continue to use devices that contain mercury. Even facilities that have purged mercury-containing devices may still have mercury in pipes and drains from spills long ago.
When mercury is allowed to escape down a drain, it comes in contact with water and becomes a contaminant that must be removed by your local wastewater treatment plant. Once in the water, it can be difficult and costly to remove or reduce mercury to safe limits.
Mercury may be found throughout health care facilities in products such as thermometers, blood pressure gauges, dilation and feeding tubes, certain batteries, fluorescent lamps, thermostats, sumps, pumps, boilers, older exterior latex paint, lab stains and lab reagents.
Mercury may also be found in sewer pipes. Mercury can settle at a low point such as a sump or trap and remain in the pipes of a facility for many years. Often the slow dissolution of the mercury in a sump, trap or pipe is enough to cause exceedance of mercury limits in wastewater even after best management practices are implemented. Hot spots in a facility's piping may appear where laboratories or equipment maintenance areas were located. Whenever traps or sumps are moved or cleaned, the solid contents should be treated as a hazardous waste unless proven otherwise.
Although mercury performs many useful functions, it is toxic and can impair the way we see, hear and function.
In the environment, a percentage of mercury undergoes a biological/chemical process and is converted to methylmercury, which is a more toxic form of mercury.
Mercury poisoning can attack the central nervous system in humans. Women of child-bearing age and children, especially those under the age of six, are most susceptible to mercury poisoning.
Wastewater treatment plants are facing increased regulatory attention for levels of mercury in the wastewater they treat and ultimately discharge into Indiana waters. As a result, treatment plants throughout the state need the cooperation of business, industry and citizens to minimize the amount of mercury escaping down the drain.
For additional information call (800) 988-7901 or (317) 232-8172