View Full Version : darkrooms in residential areas

8-Jun-2010, 20:35
I would like to know about the laws that are connected to having a residential darkroom in the state of ca.

anyone have any info?


8-Jun-2010, 20:47
My free advice...... Don't tell anyone. You don't want to be on the epa's list.
I dispose of used fix at a friendly minilab, or the community college lab.

Wade D
8-Jun-2010, 20:55
I'm not in a residential neighborhood anymore but when I was I used to neutralize the developer with stop bath then down the drain with plenty of water. For small home darkrooms this is acceptable. Fixer has always been recycled to reclaim the silver. I still use the same method at my rural home with a septic tank. The chemicals are inert and don't kill the bacteria necessary for the septic tank to work.

Tom Monego
9-Jun-2010, 05:32
All depends on your town/city. I lived in a medium sized town for 20 or so years, I had done various photo work around town. Had a septic system that needed replacing, went to the town sewr commision to get the permits, the manager said that I had to double any normal sized leaching field because he knew I had a darkroom in the house and I was a professional photographer. Did I ever mention this to him, no. He listed the house as having 3 baths, which was lucky for me. This was before some of the current strict rules on septic systems, one year before Massachusetts said all old septic systems had to be handled as hazardous waste. I lucked out on this.
B&w photo chemicals are not that hazardous when used in a personal situation, even standard color chemistry is not too bad in small quantities, Ilfo (Ciba) Chrome is differrent a some nasty stuff there, but still maybe not too bad in small quantities. Just don't suddenly start using tons of water if you are on a public system, may be a red flag for the house to be checked. They will check mostly for leaky pipes but if they find a dark room there may be town ordinances to deal with.
Use a hypo remover, also a static 7 changes of water with hypo remover will give you a good wash. This is easier with film than prints. Just don't leave the wash water on over night.

Good luck

9-Jun-2010, 14:41
I guess the main question would be can they stop us from having darkrooms? mine is for personal use only..........

MIke Sherck
9-Jun-2010, 15:21
Darkroom? What darkroom? Do you have a warrant? Are you wearing body armor? ;)


9-Jun-2010, 18:34
I can't speak to town or state regs on darkrooms where you are. Where you are they will or won't have rules.

My comments below pertain to ordinary BW processing and small volume operations. In general, small volume BW processing - artist or hobby or small volume professional - does not create an environmental hazard with the exception of used fix. Fixer does need attention. I have to differ with Wade D on fixer disposal. There are very good reasons to reclaim the silver from used fix before disposing of it.

Any number of threads here and on www.apug.org discuss waste silver reclamation. Waste silver is not good to just flush down the drain environmentally and the silver can easily be removed from used fix. I'm no tree hugger, but I won't flush old fix without treating it first.

In moderate volumes, ordinary BW chemicals are not an environmental problem. Unfortunately, some towns and states and some people have become convinced that any "chemical" is a deadly danger. I suspect the wise thing is to determine what regulations exist and to have a workable plan for meeting the regulations, before you contact whatever authorities that may have say on darkrooms in your area. Not eventually contacting them in any area with regulations could result in your getting shut down or subjected to unreasonably punitive demands. Know the rules first and be prepared for them. Ask other photographers, labs etc. in your area first, before you wander into town hall.

High volume labs probably have higher regulatory demands made upon them in most jurisdictions.

Wade D
9-Jun-2010, 23:35
I guess the main question would be can they stop us from having darkrooms? mine is for personal use only..........
Personal darkrooms are pretty much exempt. Other personal freedoms have been subject to absurd laws but that's what this thread is not about so 'nuff said. I've been using a personal darkroom in So. Cal for 40 years with no restrictions other than common sense.

10-Jun-2010, 06:01
it isn't hard or expensive to extract the silver from the spent fixer.
the federal laws give 5 parts per million as the ceiling ...
in some areas it is is strictly enforced, and in others it isn't.
when i had a lab in in a large city it was at 5 where i am now, it is 3 ...
electrolytic devices will get you down to about 50 parts / million
and ionic transfer will get you down to meet the 5 or 3 parts / million.
getting an epa number and having someone take it away isn't hard either.
it costs nothing for the epa #, and you have a paper trail saying that it was removed.
i have done that for years, and no one knocks at my door ...

good luck !

Tom Monego
10-Jun-2010, 07:06
Just a little qualifier on the "knock on the door" statement. My town lost a well due to natural contamination during several dry years. the town just outside Boston was groing by leaps and bounds. Severe water restriction were put in place, it was about this time they went to computerized file for storing water use, for billing information. So this meant they could check for extreme changes in water usage. They would assume it was a leaky pipe to the house as their meters were at the road, but they would also ask to see the basement to see if there was any leakage there. My darkroom was on the 2nd floor so I didn't have a problem, don't know what they would have done if they saw a darkroom. As I said the town really didn't care when I put my septic system in which was right around this time. Now everyone has gotten more regulatory.


10-Jun-2010, 07:35
sorry to ask, but what does this have to do with silver recovery or dark room chemicals ?
because they would have checked to see if there was a leaky pipe draining water in a water shortage ?
i'd be glad they were checking to see if i had a flooded basement, or a leak in my water system,
and if they saw my DR they would see i recover / reclaim and if they needed a baseline test with my sink full
i'd be happy to give them a test tube and bring it to the lab ...

i know don't want to turn blue :) (http://www.google.com/images?client=safari&rls=en&q=blue+man+colloidal+silver&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=QvcQTO_gIYHlnAfl_J3YBw&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CDIQsAQwAw) i don't play the drums well enough ...

Mark Sampson
10-Jun-2010, 07:51
Ordinary home darkrooms are a lot less of a problem, environment-wise, than many people fear. In your garage and under your kitchen sink there are many more toxic chemicals than you will find in a standard darkroom. For an accurate understanding of the situation, consult Kodak's website- at least they *did* have an authoritative article on the subject. Anecdotal evidence should be regarded with suspicion.
But certainly you should recover the silver from spent fixer; the easiest way is just to take it to a commercial photo lab.

10-Jun-2010, 08:06
the clorine bleach that gets used in home laundry, is far worse than anything commonly used in a darkroom.

Doremus Scudder
10-Jun-2010, 08:35
You guys are reacting as if a home darkroom were illegal, or some kind of clandestine operation.

Home darkrooms are legal, and the effluent goes nicely into the city sewer system. Read Kodak Technical Publication J-300.

The only consideration is spent fixer, which contains silver. Usually, the amounts and concentrations of silver in fix from a home darkroom are much to small to be regulated.

Nevertheless, those of us who are environmentally aware take our used fixer to either a local photo lab with silver recovery capabilities or to the local hazmat center. I use my darkroom quite a bit and only make 4-5 trips a year to the disposal center with a five-gallon jug.

Developer and stop are harmless and are broken down in water treatment plants.

Selenium toner is a bigger issue. If you re-use and replenish like I do, there should be no problems. If you discard toning solution that has been used to exhaustion down the drain there should also be no problems as the level of heavy metal in exhausted toner is almost nothing.

If there are regulations in some cities about effluent discharge, they are usually there for good reason and should be researched and adhered to. I'll bet that 99% of the time there are no restrictions on low-volume darkrooms at all.


Doremus Scudder

10-Jun-2010, 09:54
the clorine bleach that gets used in home laundry, is far worse than anything commonly used in a darkroom.

So true! The concerns regarding Selenium and other heavy metal toners are also valid, but so much depends on the volume discharged over time. Silver salts are not particularly toxic, but it is a shame to flush money and a valuable resource down the drain. The silver salts can be precipitated out of used fixer using a clump of steel wool and saved for recycling. Here is a link to the Kodak publication on appropriate chemical disposal:



10-Jun-2010, 16:30
the clorine bleach that gets used in home laundry, is far worse than anything commonly used in a darkroom.

this is true
but the difference is that
there are no laws governing household effluence
containing bleach or other household cleaning products,
and there are laws regarding the discharge of certain photographic wastes.

small electrolytic units, steel wool, copper flashing, aluminum foil
are all inexpensive .... and all reduce silver from the waste stream.