Cautions for ferric nitrate etc. (long)

Bill, a question and some comments.

How should I discard caustic chemicals? Where can I find about
handling, storing and discarding the chemicals we use? I have a small pot
of Sparex 2 solution that I have been using to remove oxidation from
silver & copper. How do I know when it needs to be replaced, and do I
discard it or “replenish” it. Where do we put this stuff when we don’t
want it anymore? I briefly thought about pouring it down the drain, but
don’t feel that is the proper way to do it.

I took a course in jewelry making basics at a local college last summer,
and want to go back full time. We learned how to saw, pierce, do basic
soldering, etc., and none of the safety precautions I see mentioned on
this list (and elsewhere) were ever mentioned. We used a pickle, warmed up
in a crock pot. I remember watching classmates bending down with their
faces almost in the pickle pot, searching for the silver pieces they had
dropped down into it. I did too, as I remember the unpleasant sensation in
my nostrils and sinuses when I did it! The only real cautions we received
were regarding the machines (flex shaft-keep hair & loose clothing away,
grinding machine-ditto, torches-watch where you point them, and make sure
they’re not left on unintentionally, polishing machine-firm grip on
object, proper placement for polishing without hurting yourself), and the
handling of the searingly hot pieces of silver or copper we had just
soldered or annealed. One young woman was walking across the classroom
talking to classmates and waving a 1" X 2" piece of silver around in the
air. She had just picked it up with tweezers after annealing it. The
instructor seemed alarmed, but she didn’t notice.

Gail in Brooklyn, NY

How should I discard caustic chemicals? Where can I find about
handling, storing and discarding the chemicals we use? 

G’day; Firstly there was the question of when to discard pickle. The
answer is simple - when it no longer removes flux, or alternatively, when
the pale blue colour of the pickle becomes pronounced. The blue is copper
sulphate, from oxidized sterling silver or low carat gold. Sparex isn’t
very expensive anyway, but if you go to the pool service people and buy the
acid pool pH adjuster, you will find it considerably cheaper and exactly
the same chemical; sodium hydrogen sulphate or sodium bisulphate, and this
is so cheap there isn’t much point in trying to hold on to it till it
reaches it’s ‘use by’ date.

DISPOSAL; For any waste acid material, add sodium bicarbonate; (baking
soda) until it no longer fizzes. If you are worried about pollution, have
handy a plastic bucket containing sawdust, shavings, or even kitty litter
in which to pour the waste and absorb it. The contents of the bucket can
be put into a bag and disposed of in the garbage can, or taken to the tip.
If you ‘garbage it’ on the first day in the month, you won’t forget it.
Strongly alkaline materials or small amounts of those containing heavy
metals can be similarly disposed of in sawdust. Another disposal method is
to dig a hole in the ground and bury it. That is where it originated, isn’t

However, industrial quantities of waste must be disposed of according to
the local statutes. Cheers, John Burgess

DOWN THE DRAIN AT HOME!!! first of all, it’s dangerous to the pick up
people. second, it’s dangerous to incinerate. third, it’s against the law
in just about every city or county in the country. call your city hall or
county commission switchboard & ask for the ‘solid waste’ disposal
department (the trash pick up people). ask the solid waste people when
they will have a pick up of old paints, chemicals, etc. if you cannot wait
until that date, if they give one to you, then ask them where you can take
it. no humor from me today people, this was a serious problem i faced as a
public works commissioner and as a mayor. the very nature of our work is
not kind to the environment - the manufacturers of the materials we buy
probably caused pollution before we even bought them - and we cannot
exacerbate that problem by disposing of them irresponsibly. i will now step
down from my soapbox - thank you - ive

    DISPOSAL;   ..(after neutralization).. in the garbage can, or taken
to the tip. 

… Another disposal method is to dig a hole in the ground and bury it.
…industrial quantities of waste must be disposed of according to the
local statutes.

If you want to be really environment-friendly, or there is the possibility
of the chemicals seeping into your groundwater, in some places (like
Arizona) you can recycle even small amounts at hazardous waste recycling
places. In Tucson ours is only open on Friday and Saturday for household
waste, but it eases my conscience to put it in there.

Does this also apply to disposal of nitric acid? Baking soda…? Thanks
for the advice. Wendy

PS: Listen up people, if you are an accredited chemist, specialist on
environmental health (as is My partner, a just-cause fanatic on disposal
methods) or on your state’s dep Staff, you may decide on your own what
damage the waste material may or may Not do to the environment. however, if
you are the average jewelry worker then please consider that Any and all
waste can be hazardous to us now and/or later if disposed of Improperly.
my point: If you spend so much time, effort & money on keeping silver from
’burning’ or Just the right type of invisible fishing line, why not spend
a little effort On our children’s planet?
Thank you

    Does this also apply to disposal of nitric acid?  Baking soda...? 
Thanks for the advice. Wendy 

G’day Wendy; Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will neutralise any acid you
are likely to come across. But DON’T pour neutralised nitric acid in to
sawdust or any other flammable material for the final disposal. Why not?
Because all nitrates are good oxidising agents when mixed with carbon or
most organic substances. Which is why they are used in gunpowder and

To dispose of nitrate residues pour into any inorganic powder which will
absorb liquids. Vermiculite, even dry dirt from the ground for instance. If
you choose powdered lime in which to pour your nitrate residues (or other
acid) for final disposal, you need not do the baking soda neutralisation
first - powdered lime, marble, or chalk, (not the blackboard variety
however) will do the neutralisation too. Allow water to evaporate and
dispose of small amounts garbage-wise.

I forgot to mention something when answering a query on disposal for other
things. That is, if you have the odd litre or two, and no tray big enough
to hold sufficient absorbent, put four bits of 2"x2" wood on the ground
to make a rectangle or square in a sunny spot and spread a sheet of
polythene over the tray-like space this provides. Put the absorbent in it
and pour in the liquid for disposal. A thin layer will easily dry out on a
good day. You could finally bundle the plastic up, making a sort of bag,
tie a string around the ‘neck’ - and there you are. And give us a final
rousing chorus of the Company Anthem, so we can get back to work. Cheers,
John Burgess

I knew I was going to get your goat. You live in a state (Florida) where
people are going to destroy it. Pure water demand and domestic waste will
kill it caused by basic greed. Most of the damage in Florida has been in
the time frame when enviromental issues were a concern elsewhere.

You have a few basic enviromental problems:

  1. Hungry greedy developers and builders.

  2. You have a limited supply of salt free aquifier water.

  3. You have few big point water polution sources, A few paper mills,
    phosphate mining, Chemical industry in Escambia Bay. I believe the
    Escambia bay situation has been and is being handled pretty well. I’m not
    sure about he paper mills on the East coast and on the Georgia border.
    These are fairly simple to correct and control.

  4. Domestic waste is a realy super problem. This cost Tax money or
    Developer major investment prior to development for sale. This becomes a
    total political issue influenced almost totaly by lobbiests for the

  5. Fresh water demand hits you two ways. You must keep a lot of clean fresh
    water flowing in the Everglades to keep some aquifer replentishment going
    and control salt water infusion. A little bit is being done on that
    pronblem now. The Aquifier has been damaged for years and I know you are
    seeing some salt infusion. Once this goes too far (and you won’t try to
    really correct it until its to late) it will take generations to recover
    with a smaller population.

  6. Improperly treated domestic waste is caused by too much growth and
    greed. No developer wants to build really adequate treatment systems and
    small ones get overwelmed as well as being run improperly. A lot of big
    ones are overwelmed now. Nobody wants to increase their taxes. WE have this
    problem here with developers and buyers who want city water, sewers and
    some other services without the city tax structure or the possibility of
    it. Lobbiests for the developers and their lawyers are very effective in
    keeping the developer view foremost. Until the local authorities have
    stopped all untreated or primary treated only domestic outflow into the
    estuary systems of this country fanatic small issues only cover for the
    real issues. You need local construction moritoriums until these problems
    are corrected. I only know of this being pretty effective in the greater DC
    area back in the mid 70’s. Chespeake Bay is a mess, The Hudson river is
    showing improvement. Lake Erie has recovered somewhat, The Coastal zone off
    Louisiana is a mess, Western Gulf of Mexico Estuary system is not on the
    greatest shape. Most of these problems are domestic waste originated with a
    few easily targeted big exceptions. Its easy to control the industry ones
    with a few real or threatened prison terms and large personal fines for
    executives of firms that don’t control their firms problems. They are
    scared to death of personal liability. You politicians will never allow
    this to even be a possible consideration for yourselves.

I was - am a chemical engineer and have been involved in these issues for
roughly 40 years. You look out for the gnats and can’t see the rushing
Buffalo. Respectively Jesse

Hi Jesse, I live in Florida, Gilchrist County to be exact. We have
15,000 people here and over 17,000 cows. (Dairy, Holsteins) All of their
waste hits the ground into the aquifer.( By the way it is huge here) Our
Commissioners say that there is no problem with that and are issuing out
permits for more dairies left and right. We have here Ginnie Springs, Poe
Springs, Blue Springs, Hart Springs and many others. People come here from
all over the world to go cave diving, We have been featured in National
Geographic, and PBS Specials… Yet we can get no help from any one to
stop this pollution. Not even the Great State of Florida, and don’t think
that this problem has not been brought to the attention of our Governor .
Still no help.

These factory “farms” are a real waste generator. They need to be
considered as industrial poluters, they are not the old “family” farm.

To really appreciate the problem go to North Carolina east of 95 to the hog
factories. you won’t need a map your nose will do. Wastes are stored
forever untreated in open holding ponds. All you you need is a super rain
like south Texas just received, the ponds overflow and the dikes break. The
rivers die and so does the coastal estuary. This has already happened in
North Carolina. There is a lot of dairy industry along the Rio Grande
princply arround El Paso and upstream. The entire Rio Grande flowage is
used several times on it way to the gulf. At least its getting a good flush
this week. Hog factories are a growing problem in other states. Some of
these situation may have been explored on 60 miniute or 20/20 type programs
-I’m not sure. They should be over and over again. Its all in having the
right perspective. I think looking at the small situations keeps the people
missing the forest of real ones. Jesse

Our nation’s greatest environmental pollutant is MONEY. It buys the
politicians who side with the profiteers at the expense of the public.
Until greed and corruption are factored out of the equation, I think we
can kiss the environment goodbye.