FIELD TECHNIQUES--Return of Spent Mercury and Dichromate Ampoules to the National Water Quality Laboratory 






In Reply Refer To:                              July 16, 1992
Mail Stop 412


OFFICE OF WATER QUALITY TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM 92.11

Subject:  FIELD TECHNIQUES--Return of Spent Mercury and         
                Dichromate Ampoules to the National Water Quality       
                Laboratory 

The National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) has established a 
service to dispose of spent or broken ampoules that contained 
either: (a) mercuric chloride, or (b) potassium dichromate 
preservatives.  Provision of this service arose from requests 
for assistance from Water Resources Division (WRD) Districts, 
and is intended to help Districts comply with stricter federal 
and local regulations associated with hazardous waste disposal.  
The NWQL uses disposal procedures that are approved by the 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and that conform to 
regulations required by permitting agencies in the State of 
Colorado, Fruitdale Sanitation District, and the Denver 
Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District.

This NWQL ampoule-disposal service pertains only to spent 
ampoules that contain mercuric chloride or potassium dichromate 
residuals; ampoules containing other chemical preservatives are 
to be disposed of by WRD District personnel.  Office of Water 
Quality (OWQ) Technical Memorandum 90.01 provides ampoule 
disposal instructions that can be used for spent ampoules 
containing preservatives other than mercuric chloride or 
potassium dichromate.  The minute preservative residual remaining 
on the inner walls of the spent mercuric chloride or potassium 
dichromate ampoule is considered hazardous by definition of 40CFR 
Part 261.  The residuals must not be discharged into the sewer 
and ampoules must not be thrown in the dumpster.  These practices 
are unacceptable with local sewer regulations and solid waste 
disposal sites.  

Cost of the NWQL ampoule-disposal service is included in the 
present price of mercuric chloride and potassium dichromate 
ampoules.  Ampoules that contain mercury are to be shipped in 
250-milliliter (mL) brown polyethylene bottles (until bottle 
supplies are exhausted) or glass bottles.  Ampoules that contain 
chromium may be shipped in 500-mL or 1-liter brown polyethylene 
or glass bottles.  The shipping bottles can contain many spent 
ampoules; however, do not crush the ampoules in the shipping 
bottles.

Procedures for returning spent mercuric chloride and potassium 
dichromate ampoules to NWQL are detailed below:

1.  DISPOSAL OF SPENT AMPOULES--Broken ampoules that will be 
disposed of by the NWQL must be stored and shipped according to 
the instructions outlined in this memorandum.  To reiterate, this 
pertains only to mercuric chloride ampoules or potassium 
dichromate ampoules.  Both parts of the spent ampoule--tip and 
body--are to be stored in tightly closed brown polyethylene 
sample bottles or in wide-mouth glass screw-cap Mason jars.  
Mercury and chromium ampoules may NOT be stored or shipped in the 
same storage bottle.  Ampoules are NOT to be crushed or broken 
into smaller fragments.  Bottles that contain more than one type 
of ampoule or that contain crushed ampoules will be returned to 
the sender.  

2.  STORAGE OF SPENT MERCURIC CHLORIDE AMPOULES--Broken mercuric 
chloride ampoules are to be stored separately from other ampoules 
in the 250-mL brown polyethylene bottles commonly used for 
nutrient samples or glass (Mason jar) sample containers, and must 
be clearly marked "MERCURY AMPOULES".  Mercury ampoule containers 
must be capped securely after each ampoule is disposed to prevent 
potential escape of mercury vapors.  Mercury ampoule containers 
must be stored in an airtight container such as a steel disposal 
can, and the can must be place in an area designated and labeled 
"MERCURY ACCUMULATION AREA".  The accumulation area must be 
isolated from environmental or quality-control samples, deionized 
water, and routine human contact.

3.  STORAGE OF SPENT POTASSIUM DICHROMATE AMPOULES--Broken 
potassium dichromate ampoules are to be stored separately from 
other ampoules in white (translucent) polyethylene sample bottles 
that are clearly marked "CHROMIUM AMPOULES".  As these are 10-mL 
ampoules, they may be stored in 500-mL or 1-liter bottles.  
Chromium ampoule containers must be capped securely between 
ampoule disposal and be kept in an area designated and labeled 
"CHROMIUM ACCUMULATION AREA". The accumulation area must be 
isolated from environmental or quality control samples, deionized 
water, and routine human contact.

4.  PACKING AND SHIPPING OF AMPOULE CONTAINERS--Prior to 
shipping, the cap on each broken-ampoule container must be 
tightened firmly and taped, either with duct tape, clear plastic 
(laboratory quality) tape, or electrical tape.  Please note that 
fiber tape is not acceptable.  

  (A)  PACKING--Ampoule containers should be double-bagged in 
       trash bags with packing material, but containers labeled 
       "MERCURY AMPOULES" must be bagged separately from 
       containers labeled "CHROMIUM AMPOULES".  
  (B)  SHIPPING--Ampoule containers are to be shipped in 
       containers that have been dedicated and labeled for this 
       purpose.  Top and sides of shipping containers for mercury 
       and (or) chromium ampoule containers must be boldly marked 
       "BROKEN AMPOULES" and sent to Carlos Arozarena, Safety 
       Officer, National Water Quality Laboratory. 

It is not permissible under any circumstances for a container 
used for shipping spent ampoules to be used concurrently or 
subsequently for carting or shipping environmental samples, 
deionized or distilled water, or any field equipment.  

5.  LABORATORY RECEIVING PROCEDURE FOR SPENT AMPOULES--Broken 
ampoules will be received by the login section of the NWQL.  The 
login section will contact the lab waste control officer for 
appropriate storage, pretreatment and disposal of the spent 
ampoules.  The waste control officer will use the analytical 
services request form to maintain records of the broken ampoule 
containers received.  The following information must be completed 
on the request form: (a) Station Name or Field Office, (b) 
Project code, (c) Collector, (d) phone number, (e) 
year/month/day, (f) State code, (g) District User Code, then 
Records 5 and 6 - Comments--provide any pertinent background 
information.  In the Laboratory Use Only block write:  "MERCURY 
AMPOULES" or "CHROMIUM AMPOULES" respectively.  Also include the 
total number of shipped bottles at the bottom of the form.  If 
there are any questions regarding these procedures, contact the 
NWQL Safety Office, Carlos Arozarena (303-467-8035).

NOTE:  DO NOT send elemental mercury inside the bottles, it will 
interfere with the pretreatment procedure.





                                David A. Rickert
                                Chief, Office of Water Quality

Key words:  mercury, mercuric chloride, chromium, potassium 
            dichromate, ampoule disposal.

This memorandum supplements OWQ Technical Memorandum 90.01.

Distribution: A, B, S, FO, PO