Mercury Minimization Program

Mercury thermometerAs part of the City of North Royalton Consolidated Sewer District 's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES), we are required to meet the conditions of numerous pollutant issues, which among them, are mercury. To accomplish this, the Wastewater Department is implementing a mercury pollutant minimization program to make reasonable progress towards attaining water quality limits related to this toxic pollutant.

It is extremely costly to remove mercury from the raw sewage influent at a wastewater treatment plant. Costs range from $10,000,000 to $100,000,000 to remove one pound of mercury. We have chosen to reduce mercury by minimizing its use in the community; therefore, reducing the amount that potentially would be discharged into the sanitary sewers and eventually end up in our streams, rivers and lakes.

Assessing the sources of mercury within any community is a valuable tool, which we have already begun to evaluate and implement.

Typical facilities where mercury is found:
  • Hospitals
  • Dental offices
  • Wastewater Treatment Works - self-assessment performed at both plants, reduction activities in progress
  • Education/Research facilities - schools, laboratories, industrial sites
  • Automobile recycling
  • Households

Don't Mess with Mercury
"Don't Mess With Mercury" was an article recently written in a previous newsletter.

Many common household items contain small amounts of mercury. These items pose no threat when used properly; however, they can be dangerous if they are misused or improperly discarded. The following is a list of a few items that potentially contain mercury. Please remember that items on this list do not necessarily contain mercury, as many mercury-free alternatives exist. If you suspect that you have mercury containing items, contact the manufacturer for proper disposal information when they need to be replaced or discarded.

Non-digital thermostats, including some in appliances:
  • Stoves
  • Ovens
  • Water heaters
  • Clothes dryers
  • Furnaces
  • Space heaters
Some switches or relays in:
  • Chest freezers
  • Washing machines
  • Sump pumps
  • Clothes irons
  • Electric space heaters
  • Silent light switches
Some types of lights:
  • Fluorescent lamps**
  • High-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs
Some medicine cabinet items:
  • Fever thermometers
  • Mercurochrome
  • Merthiolate
  • Saline Solutions
Miscellaneous items:
  • Button-cell batteries
  • Unused pre-1990 paint
  • Old alkaline batteries
  • Clock pendulums
*This list is not intended to be comprehensive.
**Fluorescent lamps are more energy-efficient than their alternatives and should continue to be used.

For additional information - please visit the websites listed below: A Little Bit Goes A Long Way
  • Forty-four states now issue warnings about eating mercury contaminated fish.
  • There is between a half of a gram (0 .02 oz.) and three grams (0.1 oz.) of mercury in a fever thermometer.
  • The EPA has determined that the level of mercury safe for fish-eating wildlife in the Great Lakes is no more than 1.3 billionths of a gram of mercury per liter of water (0.17 billionths of an ounce of mercury per gallon of water). This is equivalent to a drop of mercury the size of a pencil-tip eraser in a pool of water as long, wide and deep as Cleveland Browns Stadium.