Low volume print washer? Chemical toxicity?greenspun.com : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread
I recently moved into a new house and want to build a darkroom. I only have room in the basement -- trouble is, my house is near a lake and because of that, my basement is actually lower than the sewer line. What this means is a utility sink in the room I would like to convert to my darkroom requires an electric pump to drain the waste -- the waste water can't just drain away like it does in most houses, it has to be pumped away.
In the past I've always used either the Kodak print siphon and washed my prints about an hour, or even just washed them in the bathtub for extended period with a home-made "snorkel" on the drain. I've also used one of the plexi print washers when I was at school. Sometimes I've used Heico Perma-wash for good measure. The only time I've had trouble with stained prints is when I was printing in a school darkroom (I think I got chemical stains from the drying racks). I'd like to come up with some sort of print washer system that doesn't use a lot of water so I won't have to constantly run the little electric motor that drains the basement utility sink...any suggestions?
Also -- I used to be able to drop off my spent fixer at school for reclaimation but since then I have moved out of state and no longer have access to a school lab monitor willing to look the other way as I dump my personal chemical waste in the barrel with the school's. What better (and more environmentally sound) options are there other than pouring this stuff down the drain? I'm willing to look at using different chemicals if that will help -- currently I favor Kodak fix and stopbath + Edwal LPD for print developer. Anyone used Sprint? Isn't that stuff supposed to be less toxic?
-- s. ballard (email@example.com), April 16, 2001
Ilford has a system for fast fixing requiring minimal washing. I don't have it, but another visitor to this site might have it. Otherwise, contact Ilford.
Definitely use HCA, PermaWash, or Orbit bath to cut down on wash requirements. The standby for washing without running water is successive soakings in fresh standing water. My recollection is 5 soaks, for about 5 minutes each. Older photography books describe this.
For disposal of fixer, contact your local household hazardous waste department. Explain what you are doing, and how they want you to dispose of the fixer. I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and waste water ends up in the bay. Fixer isn't allowed down the drain, as silver is toxic to the marine life. I can give my fixer to the local hazardous waste department where they handle safe disposal. Check you phone book.
-- Charlie Strack (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 16, 2001.
Most photographers who wash their prints well enough probably use far more water than needed. After the first few minutes of rinsing the fixer off of the prints, the process is limited by diffusion and doesn't need a fast flow of water. The most water-efficient process would probably be a rinse or two, use of hypo-clearing agent (any brand or made yourself), then a wash using a pulsed time schedule. Flow the water for a few minutes at a moderate rate, than let the prints sit for a few minutes, etc. Experiment and test for residual hypo. Are you using fiber-based paper? If so, wash aid / hypo-clearing agent is virtually mandatory.
The main possible environmental hazard from used fixer is the silver. Given this, I don't think the brand of fixer will make any difference. The environmental risk of silver is controversial. The manufacturers argue that the form of silver in used fixer is relatively non-toxic and that regulating all forms of silver equally is a mistake. I don't know enough to independently judge. Here are several web sites with the manufacturers' point of view: http://www.silvercouncil.org, http://webs.kodak.com/US/en/corp/environment/kes/index.shtml, http://www.ilford.com/html/us_english/msds/index.html
Most hobby photographers probably pour their fixer down the drain.
-- Michael Briggs (MichaelBriggs@EarthLink.net), April 16, 2001.
Porter's Camera sells a cheap silver reclamation device for under $40 that will take the silver out of your fix before you dispose of it.
-- Ed Buffaloe (email@example.com), April 17, 2001.
Since the topic of efficient print washing and water use has appeared, I'd like to get some feedback on an idea for washing prints with recirculated water.
I bought a Versalab 11x14 print washer a couple of years ago in an effort to decrease the labor of manually washing prints using trays. It seems to work pretty well, but the recommended flow rate for thorough washing is about 0.5 to 1 gallon per minute and the recommended time is about one hour. I dislike wasteing up to 60 gallons of water when most of the residual fixer is gone within about 10-20 minutes (I'm trying to recall the figures from Mysteries of the Vortex here) and the rest of the time/water is spent to eke out very tiny quantities of fixer. David Vestal described his process for washing which is 1) wash with flowing water for about 0.5 hours, 2) turn off water flow and let prints stand in washer for an hour, 3) wash with flowing water for another 0.5 hours. This seems overly long and I am skeptical that soaking prints in still water is an efficient way to leach out fixer, especially where they might touch the washer partitions. I had the following idea, which seems to me to be quite workable.
The Versalab washer has a hose arrangement that would easily permit inserting a small lab pump and creating a closed circuit. The washer holds 11 gallons. Rinsed prints (to get most of the Permawash off) could be put in the washer and washed with fresh water for 10 minutes at 1 gpm. This would get the residual fixer to a pretty low level and have pretty clean water in the tank. Then the pump could be used to circulate the tank water for about 50 minutes. This should keep the water moving and should leach out remaining fixer to archival levels because any remaining fixer diluted in 11 gallons of water should be well below a problem level (see Mysteries of the Vortex). Then a brief rinse in distilled or filtered water in a tray before drying to avoid any water deposits. Total time, 60 minutes, total water about 25 gallons.
Comments, suggestions, faults, source of small, clean working lab pumps? Thanks.
-- Jim Snyder (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 2001.
The solution is a tank with a sump pump in it. I bought a commercial setup for about $150.00US. You can make one yourself for even less. The sump pump will us a float to turn itself on and off when the level in the tank reaches a certain level. In my darkroom, I run a (monitored) 1/3 GPM. The pump runs for 10 seconds or so every few minutes.
-- Ed Farmer (email@example.com), April 17, 2001.
I do what Ed does and it works very well.
-- Chris Hawkins (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2001.
I've always wanted to do my own silver recovery, but I've been told that the inexpensive units corrode and have to be replaced before they even recoup their price in silver. It seems cheaper for me to pay 25 cents per gallon to have it taken away (or drive it to the photo lab), but I'd love to be proved wrong. Can either of you who use them give more details?
To the original post, you also might try calling a local photo lab. They might take your used fix.
-- Wayne (email@example.com), April 22, 2001.