Putting B/W Chemistry down the toilet

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by DanielStone, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    i know this is a weird question, but it is to satisfy my parents who think that by putting b/w chemistry down the toilet will ruin it.

    I want to start developing my b/w and maybe color negs at home, versus at school but have very limited space (may have to go outside).

    my main reason is because of quality control. my fam knows i am serious, but I don't want to risk my negs being screwed up by some idiot in the drying cabinet.

    ok,,, enough with the rant....

    we have a porcelain bowl in the bathroom where i would process the film (with pmk pyro, or WD2D+)

    basic question:

    have any of you had any bad experiences with putting chemistry down the toilet, then immediately flushing it?

    thanks
     
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  2. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    A couple things. First, are you on septic or city sewer. If on septic, you could really upset the balance of the system, so I'd think twice.

    More importantly, DON'T dump used fixer down the drain. It has silver in it and is bad for everyone involved to dispose of it in that way. Save your used fixer in bottles, take it to school, and let them dispose of it for you.

    You are probably ok with dumping the developer down the drain, but it depends on the developer, the state you live in, etc. And if you are going to dump it down the drain, I'd personally dump it down the garage sink, the shower, somewhere other than the toilet. Your delicate bits go on the toilet, not in the garage sink :D

    You don't really need a stop bath for B&W negs, though even if you use it, its essentially vinegar, so that is fine. Photoflo is essentially detergent, so that is fine too.

    I don't know about color chems. The same is certainly true about the fixer, but I don't know about the developer. Color developer might be nastier stuff that you want to dispose of properly. If so, keep it in old jugs, and get rid of it at your school or your hazardous waste collection days. Most towns have these.

    However, you should really check on local rules and regulations regarding this stuff. Developer, maybe. Fixer, no. Stop + photoflo, probably fine.
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    you are probably going to get a lot of different advice
    from " dump it, who cares" to " it is toxic have it hauled away"

    instead of relying on people here, who live a
    different city, town, state / country than you ... why don't you contact the
    folks where you live, so you know what the deal is.

    people on the internet tend to think they know everything about everything
    when they may or may not know a little about a lot ...
     
  4. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I agree with jnanian---you need to understand what your local regs on waste disposal are. (California tends to be restrictive about it, and in keeping with that tendency, a lot of towns have free hazmat disposal, meaning that it's pretty easy to save your dumped chemistry and just drop it off at the hazmat site every so often.)

    That said, I also think Tim Gray's summary is pretty good: developer maybe, fixer no, stop should be fine. Some developing agents are a lot more toxic than others (pyro is thought of as one of the nasties, though I don't know how much that relates to environmental toxicity, vs. hazards to the actual darkroom worker).

    All that said, I really don't think it will do the *toilet* any harm---I understand concerns about toxic-waste disposal, but it's not like photo chemistry eats porcelain! I guess it might stain, though. Really, if in doubt, take it to the hazmat folks.

    -NT
     
  5. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Just as an aside FYI....

    I've decided to take ALL photo chemistry to my local (10 miles) hazmat site. So now I am recovering all spent fix, bleach, developer, toner, etc, saving in one gallon screw top milk/water jugs until it's time to go down there. Chems are stored in my garage in a secure place...

    I figure it's time to do my part by not messing up the environment any more than it already is...
     
  6. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    FWIW, most of what I've seen written about photochemical disposal relates to environmental concerns and laws, not about what the stuff does to plumbing or fixtures. This thread mirrors that observation.

    Some photochemicals are mildly acidic or alkaline, and as such might conceivably damage plumbing -- especially metal plumbing. One piece of advice I've seen on this score is to mix together the acidic and alkaline items (such as developer and stop bath) to reach a more neutral point before disposal. Flushing well with water is also in order. I don't mean flushing a toilet, either -- I mean pouring it down a drain and then running the water for a while. When I work in my own darkroom, normal post-processing cleanup uses enough water that I expect most of what I dump is well out of my house and in the neighborhood sewage stream by the time I'm done -- but I'm not a plumber, so maybe my uneducated guess is wildly optimistic.
     
  7. McFortner

    McFortner Member

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    I'm wondering what effect Caffenol would have on a septic tank. It's made from items harmless to a septic tank so I would think that it would be OK to flush it. As far as fixer, what harm would Sodium Thiosulfate have on either yard or tank? I would think that it being used in swimming pools as a chlorine reducer would make it relatively safe since you would swim in it. Or am I being too hopeful?

    These are going to be what I use soon to develop my b/w film at home, so I am curious myself.

    Michael
     
  8. trexx

    trexx Member

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    By the time it is used it is no longer sodium thiosulfate , but silver thiosulfate. Silver is harmful to septic systems. See the sticky thread on silver recovery.

    TR
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Kodak has a data sheet with a nifty little checklist explaining what to do.

    The pdf of publication J-300: http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&star..._yj90Q&usg=AFQjCNHGzDAWpa0SpbS7eOsFOELDT4UMIA

    It basically works like this if you are connected to a sewer:

    - Developer can go down the drain by itself.
    - Stop bath should not go down the drain unless it has been mixed with developer
    - Used fixer should never be dumped down the drain unless the silver has been removed from it via steel wool filtration
    - Unused fixer can go down the drain
    - Photo Flo can go down the drain
    - Sepia Toner can go down the drain (thus I assume that plain ferricyanide bleach can as well, but not used Farmer's Reducer, as this also contains fixer)
    - Selenium should never go down the drain under any circumstances
    - Always contact your local authorities on such things for any questions before dumping anything

    It basically works like this if you are connected to a septic tank:

    - Don't dump anything
    - Have all your spent chemicals "processed off site"

    In all cases, chemicals can be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection facility.
    You can't go wrong by taking your stuff to one of these places.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2009
  10. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    Here we go again. Discussed this, argued that.

    Large users can screw up sewage systems. The guy doing a few rolls a week, hardly. Despite what some purists say, dilution is a solution. It's the flip side of ppm. Commercial sewage plants routinely handle far worse things that an amateur's chemicals.

    The rivers and streams coming out of the Rocky Mountains are loaded with silver. So much, that when Kodak started up their plant near Greeley, CO, they found the water coming into their plant was beyond EPA standards. They had to clean their effluent to standards tighter than nature's.

    To the poster who takes everything to the hazmat, if you have space and time, just let the water evaporate. Put those few ounces of dry residue in a ziplock and put it in the trash.
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    A while ago, this was bashed around. My son IS a plumber, and being a licensed Plumber requires an intimate knowledge of Federal and Local Regulations. I spent the better part of a week researching the web, visiting every imaginable source. Everything I learned was simply basic level to my son. I found that out after a fifteen minute conversation with him.

    Bottom line: First, It depends on the volume of chemistry in question. There doesn't seem to be much interest in many commercially (read: Civilian obtainable) chemical compounds unless the volume of waste discharge exceeds twenty-five gallons per month. One NOTABLE exception seems to be trichlorethelene (sp?), but I don't think that fits the criteria of "civilian obtainable".

    Twenty-five gallons is LOT of chemistry. I might have used that much water in washing films and prints... but I wouldn't count that as chemical waste.

    Now, I will CMA. I cannot and WILL NOT attempt to speak for everyone. I have NO idea what every ding-bat, grossly uninformed collection of self-deluded so-called Environmental Engineers may put together as iron-clad mandatory regulations. I would strongly suggest an attempt to contact the local/ not so local Environmental Protection Agencies. Another, possibly safer source of information would be you local Fire Department - they are, as part of their mission, vitally interested in chemical "spills".
    I've had my darkroom "checked out" by my local Fire Department... clean bill of health.

    Now, practical considerations. I have MSDS data sheets for every chemical in my darkroom (one exception: Edwal LFN - wetting agent - 15(?) mL bottle) and NONE carry a poison label.
    The most severe warning reads "May be corrosive"). I don't lose sleep worrying.

    A case in point: Kodak (or ... someone) recommends taking used shortstop to a hazardous waste site.
    For the last ten years or so, I've used white vinegar DILUTED 1:4 with water. That makes a *very* weak salad dressing, and no, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to dispose of it down the drain.
     
  12. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I always *said* that Garciaparra guy was trouble! :smile:

    -NT
     
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I would think that for most, the word "just" would better apply to taking the stuff to a hazmat facility once every now and again. As in, "Just stow your used fixer and selenium in your empty distilled water bottles and take it all to a hazmat facility every now and again." It is very easy, very cheap, and you know that the stuff has been handled as responsibly as you can possibly handle it as a home hobbyist. Seems far more simple to me than the evaporation technique, seems to pose less of a danger to various critters, makes spills less likely, and lets one avoid dealing with that dry residue (I am curious how you collect it and put it in a bag), which is more potentially harmful to ones person than the chemicals in liquid form.

    Personally, as a resident of a large city, I am on a sewer system. I dump the stuff I mentioned before (from the Kodak data sheet), and take spent fixer, selenium, and anything not listed in the Kodak chart to a hazmat site or a periodic hazmat "roundup". Since I have been doing this, I have averaged probably one trip every six months, ranging from 10 to 15 gallons per trip. I have stopped filtering my fixer through my stupid home-made steel wool contraption. Doing this to 10 - 15 gallons is more hassle than just taking it to the hazmat place, and I never knew for sure when I had filtered the stuff enough to responsibly dump it. Additionally, now I no longer run into that damned thing and knock it over when I go to take a leak in the middle of the night. (My bathroom is also my darkroom, unfortunately.)
     
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  15. PVia

    PVia Member

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    2F....

    Those are exactly my thoughts...
     
  16. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Hey John,
    I was just passing by and saw your post. Wow you told it right! Thought I would jump in and say howdy!
    In my mind, you are one of the few that truly knows what side of the base the emulsion is on!
    Take care, perhaps I will stumble in again sometime.

    Charlie................................................
     
  17. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    To answer the OP's question first: No, normal black-and-white chemicals will not damage a porcelain toilet bowl, and you can certainly use it for disposing of chemicals. However, for film developing it will likely be more convenient to just dump the chemicals down the sink with a long water rinse following to make sure the chemicals are diluted and will not hurt pipes (even though there is little chance of that anyway). I used to have a darkroom with toilet in it (a converted bathroom) and found the toilet bowel handy for dumping larger volumes of printing chemicals (pour stop and developer trays into the toilet bowl, then flush a few times).

    The question of what you should be dumping to start with from an environmental point of view is another question, but one that you should consider. Do download and read the Kodak publication linked to above. It has been my guide for years. My interpretation of it is this: Developer and stop are fine to dump down plumbing connected to public sewers. (I believe the caveat in the Kodak J-300 publication about not dumping unneutralized indicator stop bath was for the concentrated product with a pH of 1.0, which is quite low. Working solutions are much less acidic, even less acidic than vinegar you put on your salad, and won't hurt your pipes and can be safely dumped down the drain without neutralizing first. When stop bath has been used almost to capacity, it is, for all intents and purposes, neutral already. However, mixing it with spent developer ensures neutralization of both stop and developer and is certainly not a bad idea.) Wetting agents and wash-aids are safe to dump into the sewer; they are detergents and sodium sulfite (with maybe a little metabisulfite) and are harmless. Even potassium ferricyanide bleach breaks down to harmless chemicals, and is usually used in such small quantities, that disposing of it down the sink is safe. Fixer and selenium toner need special treatment (see below).

    FWIW, here is my method of disposing of darkroom chemicals: I have a couple of working areas on two different continents. For the areas hooked up to public sewer and water-treatment plants I simply dump developers and stop baths down the drain. I have one darkroom hooked up to a septic system. For this I also dump developer and stop down the drain. Of course, I dilute well and try to minimize the amounts of chemicals going into the system by efficient use. My research some years ago indicated that common developing agents, stop baths and even pyrogallol were broken down into harmless compounds by the septic system. Unfortunately, I don't have my sources here and cannot document this, so don't take my word for it as an authority!

    Fixer is collected in large plastic jugs and simply taken to a local photofinishing business, which is happy to reclaim the silver from my fixer in exchange for disposing of it. If there is a photofinisher in your area, you can likely make a similar arrangement. This is a lot simpler for me than reclaiming the silver myself. Sure, steel wool, etc. will remove the silver from the fix, but then it has to be dealt with and disposed of too. And my volume is not large enough to justify a professional silver-recovery system. Much easier just to let someone else do the work for the profit they get from the tiny amount of silver I dispose of every year. If there is a hazmat collection site that is more convenient for you, then simply use that.

    Selenium toner is toxic and should not be dumped into a septic system or into the sewer. Selenium is a heavy metal and local water-treatment plants do not effectively remove it from effluent (same with silver in the fix, and why it should not be dumped down the drain). Heavy metals collect in the sludge and can reach dangerous levels. I replenish and reuse my selenium toner, never discarding it. I've been doing this for years with good results, and have posted my techniques here and elsewhere (do a search on my posts and you will likely find one of my diatribes on the subject...). If you must dispose of selenium toner, use it to exhaustion (i.e., until toning times are extremely long), then toss a few scrap prints into the toner and let them sit overnight. The resulting solution will contain very little selenium. This should probably then go to the hazmat collection, but small amounts of very exhausted selenium toner can probably be legally and safely discarded into the sewer system in most areas (do check).

    That covers it for the chemicals I use. In your case, if all you want to do is develop film at home, you can dump everything but the fixer down the sink. Get your fixer disposed of by a photofinisher or someone with a silver-recovery system for maximum environmental safety. If you are looking for the lowest impact, you can also try to use environmentally-friendly developers (such as Kodak's Xtol or other vitamin-C-based formulas), very dilute standard developers, as well as other more environmentally-friendly alternatives. A bit of research here will turn up lots of info. Of course, using your chemistry efficiently, to capacity, and purchasing and mixing in amounts that prevent waste will reduce your impact as well.

    Photochemistry is not all that dangerous, but informed and responsible use is still a really good idea (especially if you need to convince your parents that you know what you are about...). Read up, then have fun.

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
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  18. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    Doremus, thanks for the toner tip. Since I don't use it (yet?), it's not been on my disposal radar. Good points.

    As to all the other, normal chemicals, the key to necessary methods remains, "How much?" As I noted above, nature can put more silver into water than we might do as amateurs. The classic drain cleaner is lye, and some of the modern ones go the other way and use extreme acids. And we are fretting over some "vinegar?"

    When my parents were having their house built in 1947 and my father was a professional photog, they put in an oversized septic tank to handle all the wash water. He reclaimed silver, but everything went down the drain. Note lots dilution, all that wash water. There never was a problem with the septic system. Never.
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    ed,

    did you ask the water / sewer commission / epa
    who have jurisdiction over what you flush through your
    household pipes as effluence if pouring heavy metals down your drain was OK ..
    in most places in the usa it is illegal to flush heavy metals down the drain, if more than
    "x" parts per million ...

    the question the OP asked wasn't if his bathroom/darkroom wasn't up to code, or if photochemicals
    are too sensitive or toxic to have in one's home ...
    it was if it is responsible/ethical and legal to pour heavy metals down a household drain pipe,
    and if doing so, would it damage his parents plumbing fixtures.


    hey charlie, it was great to see you stopping by! :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2009
  20. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Paul,

    I agree 100%... and on rare occasions I do dump a 5x7 tray of little used fixer down the drain. The silver introduced into the sewer system from that is less than minimal.

    That said, I think it is a good idea to minimize our impact and ecological footprint whenever and wherever convenient, so I recycle, ride my bike, reuse, shop second-hand, and properly dispose of my photochemicals as much as I can without disrupting my lifestyle. With some things (like possible toxins), it is a question of responsibility and ethics as much as a question of ecology; more potentially damaging things require more care in use and disposal. I wouldn't want my neighbor putting lots of potentially dangerous things into our shared groundwater (or even the sewer system), so I don't either as a general rule. But I'm not obsessive about it. Disposing of fixer and reusing selenium toner are "low-hanging fruit" that don't take a lot effort or time to dispose of responsibly.

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  21. snallan

    snallan Member

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    Sorry about this, just a little nit-pick :D

    I have seen Selenium referred to quite often as a heavy metal, which it is not. Indeed it is not even a metal, being in the Oxygen group, and is closely related to Sulphur. Yes, it's most stable elemental form has a metallic appearance, but chemically, it is a non-metal.

    Sorry for the digression :smile:

    Cheers
     
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  22. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    Another wise, reality based post from Doremus.

    I agree.
     
  23. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I strongly urge you to reclaim the silver from the chems. I dont think stop bath is harmful, except possibly to pipes, however spent developer, and stop, make great weedkillers. I spray along the edges of my drive, and walkways to keep the weeds down. They make great destroyers of poison ivy! I find this less harmful than the spent motor oils my neighbor uses(he's an ass)
     
  24. wogster

    wogster Member

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    There are two kinds of users, those who use a lot of chemistries, and those who use very little.

    For those who use a lot, like commercial labs, you must follow local laws for the disposal of spent chemistries. For those who use a little, it's easy to dump your spent chemicals in a jug, and when the jug is full, take it to a household hazardous waste facility. If processing film using the Ilford Method, dump the washes into the jug as well.
     
  25. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    I've used this evaporation method, it's the simplest method when dealing with small volumes (a few gallons). The dry chemicals are handled like any dry chemical - don't breath in the dust, or wear a mask - and I have a large garage where I store the open 5 gal. plastic bucket(s). It only works during the hot summer weather.

    ralnphot offered a good tip - use fixer as a weed killer - that's an even simpler solution! I have lots of weeds. Thanks ralnphot, for that tip.

    Paul
     
  26. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Back to the original question: are black and white photo chemicals harmful to residential plumbing. The answer is unequivocally NO! Residential plumbing uses copper, cast iron, galvanized steel, lead, or more commonly in modern homes, plastic waste piping. In some older neighborhoods, there may also be clay pipe in the main drain to the street. The only chemical that might raise any concern at all is acid stop, and the working strength solutions of that chemical are no more corrosive than ordinary oil and vinegar salad dressing.

    The potential harm to the environment is a separate matter. Yes, that is something that we need to be concerned about, but for most of us, the volume that we are dealing with is minuscule. I'm not convinced that the volume of fixer that I dispose of during the course of a year is enough to do any harm, but I'm not arrogant enough to try to tell other people about how they should deal with the issue. And I know that in some instances there are specific regulations that have to be met.