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.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
I always *said* that Garciaparra guy was trouble! :-)
Originally Posted by Ed Sukach
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
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.
Originally Posted by Paul Verizzo
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.)
Last edited by 2F/2F; 04-16-2009 at 04:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
Those are exactly my thoughts...
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.
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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.
Last edited by Doremus Scudder; 04-17-2009 at 07:51 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
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!
Last edited by jnanian; 04-17-2009 at 09:05 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Sorry about this, just a little nit-pick
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
Last edited by snallan; 04-19-2009 at 06:06 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"You don't need eyes to see, you need vision" - Maxi Jazz