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ECAR Fact Sheet for Maine
Mercury

 

Regulations
Self-Audit Checklist
Best Management Practices
Contacts
Related ECAR Fact Sheets
Other Relevant Resources

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The following fact sheet was prepared by the ECAR Center staff. Once prepared, each ECAR Center fact sheet undergoes a review process with the applicable state environmental agency(ies). You can check on the status of the review process here. Please read the disclaimer on the status page. While we have tried to present a summary of the essential information on this topic, you should be aware that other items, such as local regulations, may apply to you.

What You Need to Know

National Mercury Switch Removal Program

In late 2006, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) became a partner in the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NVMSRP) which is designed to remove mercury convenience light switches from scrap vehicles before the vehicles are flattened, shredded, and melted to make new steel. It is intended to be a three year cooperative effort among auto manufacturers, steelmakers, dismantlers, shredders, US EPA, state representatives of the environmental community and trade associations of certain stakeholders. For more information see ARA Governmental Affairs-NVMSRP.

Under this voluntary program auto recyclers agree to remove, collect and manage the mercury switches from scrapped vehicles. End of Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) will carry out the program responsibilities for the vehicle manufacturers. Click here for more information.

NVMSRP Participant/Related Documents/Participating Auto Recyclers

State Mercury Switch Removal Information

Maine's vehicle mercury switch recovery law prevents the ELVS program from operating in the state. Maine has unique requirements for the collection and recycling of switches that are incompatible with the ELVS nationwide model.

NEWMOA State Programs

Mercury in Maine's environment is a problem, particularly for infants and young children. The National Academy of Sciences says that over 60,000 children born each year may suffer learning disabilities and other problems because of their mothers' exposure to small amounts of mercury. In the case of motor vehicles, mercury is released when scrapped vehicles are shredded and smelted to make recycled steel.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (ME DEP) estimates that motor vehicles in Maine currently contain about 1,500 pounds of mercury in convenience light and ABS switches. Most of this mercury eventually will be released to the air unless these switches are removed before the vehicles are crushed.

This is why the Maine Legislature created a program to get these switches out before vehicles are flattened for recycling. Under the program, auto dismantlers and automakers share responsibility. Your role as a dismantler or salvage yard operator is to remove the switches and store them for recycling. Automakers will recycle the switches and pay you $1 per switch to help offset your removal costs.

Mercury switches do not need to be handled in accordance with the requirements described in this document if the waste is being handled under a ME DEP-sanctioned takeback program. The Automobile Manufacturers take back mercury switches from motor vehicles when they are dismantled. There are two separate programs, one for passenger vehicles including pickup trucks and one for medium and heavy-duty trucks:

  • Passenger Vehicle Program. Automakers have hired Wesco to operate consolidation facilities in Bangor and Portland. Dismantlers of passenger cars and pick up trucks can take their mercury switches to one of these two Wesco locations along with their log sheets and receive a $1 bounty per switch.
  • Medium and Heavy Truck Program. The Truck Manufacturers Association on behalf of their members operates the truck program. The White & Bradstreet facility in Augusta serves as the consolidation facility for this program. Dismantlers of medium and heavy-duty trucks can take their mercury switches along with their log sheets to the White & Bradstreet facility and receive a $1 bounty per switch.

The ME DEP has prepared guidance documents to help auto recyclers manage mercury-containing switches and devices. Much of that information is included in the fact sheet below. You can access the links to the guidance documents under "Other Relevant Resources."


Regulations

In the State of Maine, mercury switches and other mercury-containing devices and lamps are considered a "universal waste." These universal waste regulations are designed to encourage recycling of certain specific wastes. These rules are less demanding than the hazardous waste rules.

Types of Universal Waste. Universal waste include the following items:

  • Motor vehicle mercury switches, including hood and truck light switches and ABS switches.
  • Mercury devices including mercury thermometers, sphygmomanometers, and non-motor vehicle mercury switches.
  • Certain lamps containing mercury or lead, including fluorescent, high intensity discharge, neon, mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, and metal halide bulbs.
  • Mercury thermostats including temperature control devices, which contain mercury.

Types of Universal Waste Generators. There are two types of universal waste generators in Maine:

  • A large universal waste generator (LUWG) generates or accumulates more than 200 items of universal waste or 4,000 motor vehicle switches at any one time or in any given month.
  • A small universal waste generator (SUWG) generates and accumulates on site, 200 or less universal waste items or 4,000 or less motor vehicle switches at a time or in any given month.

Central Accumulation Facilities: There are three types of central accumulation facilities, including:

  • Facilities where a generator consolidates it's own universal wastes from the generators' various facilities.
  • Licensed solid waste transfer stations or town recycling centers where generators may take their universal waste if agreed to by the host municipality.
  • Facilities where less than 200 universal waste items are collected from a generator's site for whom the facility provides a service function. Examples of this third category can be electrical contractors, cleaning companies or sign service companies.

If you handle more than 5000 kg of universal waste, you must have an EPA identification number. If you handle less than 5000 kg of universal waste, you do not need an EPA ID Number but you must notify the ME DEP on a document called the "waste notification form." With the exception of motor vehicle mercury switches, for the types of waste currently classified as a universal waste, it is unlikely that a Central Accumulation Facility will exceed 5,000 kg (approximately 11,000 pounds) of universal waste.

Mercury Storage. Generators, owners or operators of any central accumulation or consolidation facility and transporters of mercury waste must comply with the requirements for the storage of mercury waste, as summarized below:

  • The mercury waste must be stored in a secured area, which can be locked when not in use. The waste cannot be exposed to weather.
  • Store all mercury waste in containers. The containers must not show evidence of leakage, spillage or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable conditions. The containers must be closed, structurally sound and compatible with the waste.
  • Each container must be labeled with the date you first put the mercury waste in it (accumulation start date), and the date the container becomes full, if you wish to store mercury wastes for more than 365 days.
  • You cannot store mercury waste for more than 365 days from the date the waste is first placed in the container. However, there is an exception, which allows additional storage time where it is needed to fill a container of waste no larger than the following container sizes and the container is shipped no more than 90 days from the date the container is filled:
    • Lamps: A container designed for no more than 190 lamps
    • Mercury Thermostats: A container no larger than 30 gallons
    • Mercury Devices: A container no larger than 55 gallons
    • Motor Vehicle Mercury Switches: A container no larger than 5 gallons.
  • Motor vehicle mercury switches must be shipped off at least every three years from when waste is first placed in the container regardless of whether the 5-gallon container is filled.
  • Mercury waste must be packed in containers with packing materials adequate to prevent breakage during storage, handling and transportation.
  • Full mercury waste containers must be sealed securely around box openings. Any waste containers must immediately be sealed if incidental breakage occurs.
  • Boxes of mercury waste must not be stacked more than 5 feet high. This prevents crushing of items stored in boxes in the lower levels.
  • Mercury waste storage areas must be inspected weekly and the inspection documented in a written inspection log. The log must include the name of the inspector, date of the inspection, condition of all waste containers, description of any problem noted during the inspection and action taken to fix it, and the number and type of universal waste on site.
  • Small Universal Waste Generators are not required to meet the above weekly inspection requirements except for keeping track of the number and type of universal waste items on site. However, it is recommended that an inspection be conducted whenever waste is added to the universal waste area to reduce the potential for contamination or exposure to universal waste.
  • Universal waste containers must be stored to facilitate inspection of the container. The inspector shall be able to determine the accumulation start date, container full date, and the container's condition.
  • Generators that accumulate more than 200 items of universal waste or more than 4,000 motor vehicle mercury switches at any one time or in any given month, must notify the ME CEP of the handling of universal waste and must obtain either an EPA or a State Identification Number.

Labeling and Marking. Universal waste storage areas must be designated by a clearly marked sign, which states "Universal Hazardous Waste Storage," or the type of waste being stored there: "Waste Lamp Storage", "Waste Mercury Device Storage", "Waste Mercury Thermostat Storage", or "Waste Motor Vehicle Switch Storage."

Employee Training Requirements. You must train all employees and contractors who handle or have responsibility for managing mercury waste on proper handling and emergency procedures. Documentation of the training must be maintained at the facility for a minimum of three years from the date the facility first receives or ships universal waste, or for the length of employment, whichever is longer. This documentation must include the name of the employee or contractor receiving the training, the date of the training, and the information covered during the training.

Response to Releases. All releases of waste and residues resulting from spills or leaks of mercury waste must immediately be contained and transferred into a container that meets the requirements of the state's hazardous waste management rules. Incidental breakage of ten or fewer lamps or CRTs may still be handled as universal waste.

Spills resulting from other than incidental breakage must be handled as hazardous waste. The total amount of broken lamps and CRTs in storage may exceed ten items provided no breakage event exceeds the incidental limits. Incidental breakage should however be a rare occasion. If frequent breakage is occurring, the generator, facility and transporter should review their handling procedures and packing materials to ensure that they are adequate for the job.

Report spills/discharges of universal wastes to the ME DEP's spill hotline at 800-452-4664. All spills/discharges from batteries, mercury-containing thermostats, mercury devices and motor vehicle mercury switches must be reported immediately.

Transporting Mercury Waste. Only a licensed hazardous waste transporter or a common carrier, a mercury waste generator transporting his or her own mercury waste, an owner or operator of a central accumulation facility, or an owner or operator of a consolidation facility may transport mercury waste.

Mercury wastes must be transported to a facility authorized to handle the waste under a state program and which is a defined universal waste facility. In addition, transporters may only ship universal waste from:

  • A generator to a central accumulation facility, consolidation facility, or recycling facility.
  • A central accumulation facility to a consolidation facility or recycling facility.
  • A consolidation facility to recycling facility.

Transporters must meet all of the hazardous waste management rules, including the minimum $1,000,000 of liability insurance. Note: Small quantity generators transporting their own universal waste and municipalities, state and federal governments are exempt from the insurance requirement. These rules include provisions for having a spill kit, spill response plan, and for training drivers in the implementation of the plan.

You must comply with the following requirements when transporting mercury waste:

  • The universal waste must be whole, intact, and unbroken and in proper packaging that includes closed containers that are compatible with the type and amount of waste being shipped. Packages must meet the U.S. Department of Transportation standards.
  • A Recyclable Hazardous Material Uniform Bill of Lading or Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest must accompany the waste. Copies of these documents must be submitted to the ME DEP. Instead of a manifest or bill of lading, a SUWG may use a log system of tracking. This is allowed for movement of mercury from the generator to a central accumulation facility, and from the central accumulation facility to the consolidation facility.

Certificate of Recycling. Generators should receive a Certificate of Recycling from the recycling facility for each shipment of mercury waste.

Recordkeeping Requirements.

You must retain the following documents and paperwork at your facility:

  • Inspection logs must be kept for one year from the date of shipment or receipt of mercury waste.
  • Training documentation must be kept for at least three years from the date of shipment, receipt of mercury waste or length of employment whichever is longer. Bill of lading or manifest must be kept for at least three years from the date of shipment or receipt of mercury waste.
  • Certificate of Recycling must be kept for at least three years from the date of shipment of the mercury waste except for shipments of ballasts or residues from mercury spill kits.

Links to the Regulations. Use the following links to view the regulations pertaining to mercury.

Maine - Mercury Switch Removal Requirement

Maine's Universal Waste Management Requirements


Self-Audit Checklist

When an inspector comes to your facility, there are certain things he or she checks to see if you are in compliance with environmental regulations. It makes good sense for you to perform a "self-audit" and catch and correct problems before they result in penalties. Also, there are some compliance incentives associated with self-audits (see Audit Policy Page).

Use the following list to audit your mercury management program.

  1. Has the facility made a size determination (LUWG vs. SUWG)? Review records and current inventory to verify the size determination was correct. A large universal waste generator (LUWG) generates or accumulates more than 200 items of universal waste or 4,000 motor vehicle switches at any one time or in any given month. A small universal waste generator (SUWG) generates and accumulates on site, 200 or less universal waste items or 4,000 or less motor vehicle switches at a time or in any given month.
  2. Are you properly storing mercury waste? Mercury waste must located in a secured area, impervious to weather, and stored in closed, structurally sound containers. Each container must be labeled with the date you first put the mercury waste in it and the date the container becomes full, if you wish to store mercury wastes for more than 365 days.
  3. Are you properly labeling your mercury waste? Universal waste storage areas must be designated by a clearly marked sign, which states "Universal Hazardous Waste Storage," or the type of waste being stored there: "Waste Lamp Storage", "Waste Mercury Device Storage", "Waste Mercury Thermostat Storage", or "Waste Motor Vehicle Switch Storage."
  4. Are your employees trained to manage mercury waste?

    You must train all employees and contractors who handle or have responsibility for managing mercury waste on proper handling and emergency procedures.

  5. Is your mercury waste being picked up by approved transporters? Only a licensed hazardous waste transporter or a common carrier, a mercury waste generator transporting his or her own mercury waste, an owner or operator of a central accumulation facility, or an owner or operator of a consolidation facility may transport mercury waste.

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Most regulations tell you what you have to do to be in compliance, but they don't explain how to do it. That's where "best management practices" come into play. BMPs are proven methods that help you to get into compliance and stay there.

The following BMPs are recommended for management and disposal of vehicle parts containing mercury:

  • All employees who handle or manage mercury-added products must be trained on proper handling and emergency procedures for these products and for mercury.

  • Remove all mercury switches from the vehicle as soon as possible.

  • Be careful not to break or puncture the mercury container during removal.

  • If a mercury-containing device breaks, at a minimum, the device, the released mercury and cleanup debris should be analyzed to determine whether it is a hazardous waste.

  • Store mercury switches in a leak-proof, closed container. Store in a way that will prevent the capsules from breaking.

  • Be able to demonstrate that you have not had the devices stored for more than one year. This can be done by keeping a log, shipping papers, or by labeling storage containers with the accumulation start date.


Contacts

  1. For more information, contact the ME DEP, Office
  2. Immediately report spills/discharges of mercury wastes to the ME DEP's spill hotline at
    800-452-4664.
  3. To report an environmental incident or complaint, contact the nearest regional office.

Related ECAR Fact Sheets

  1. Hazardous Wastes

Other Related Resources

  1. Maine - Auto Dismantlers Guide to Recycling Mercury Switches and Mercury Lamps
  2. Maine's Hazardous/Universal Waste Website
  3. Maine - Mercury Waste Recycling Companies
  4. Maine's Motor Vehicle Recycling Website


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