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Dr. Darryl Diefes, Dentist

Year Submitted: 2007

Process: Dentistry

Industry: Medical Facility

Wastes Reduced: Mercury amalgam

Location: Whiteville NC

Contact: Dr. Darryl James Diefes

Phone: (910) 642-6500


Dr. Diefes had been practicing dentistry in Bladen and Columbus Counties for sixteen years when, in 1994, he read about high mercury levels in several species of fish in and around Lake Waccamaw. Mercury-containing dental amalgam could potentially add to the problems of environmentally fragile Lake Waccamaw as well as other lakes and rivers. He realized that this waste had to be collected and disposed of carefully. He later found out that Whiteville, where his office was located, had been cited for violating mercury standards. It was clear that action was necessary to reduce the health hazards that mercury from dental amalgam posed to his community.

P2 Application:

Dr. Diefes sought the most effective and efficient environmental technology products that would recycle mercury amalgam to comply with environmental standards. He chose to implement Dental Recycling North America's (DRNA) three-component mercury capture and recycle system. The equipment involves chair-side particle traps coordinated with an amalgam separator and a filter for the mercury in solution. The captured mercury particles are sent for reclamation periodically.

Dr. Diefes has shared the results of his research and efforts with all of the other local dentists, encouraging them to take an active role in reducing mercury discharge from their offices. His goal is for Whiteville to become the first town in North Carolina to voluntarily achieve non-detectable dental source mercury in municipal wastewater, which would demonstrate that a collective effort can indeed help protect a community's lakes and rivers. Additionally, such efforts would save the community thousands of dollars a year in avoided penalties for mercury violations in the water treatment system.

Mercury levels from the office have dropped from an average of 0.00214 ppm to a low average of 0.0004 ppm. In addition, the captured mercury is sent for reclamation and possible reuse rather than disposal.

  • Comments: Dr. Diefes was recognized for Outstanding Achievement in the Small Business Category of the 1997 Governors Award for Excellence in Waste Reduction competition.

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