Mercury in lake water / effect on film

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by terence_spross|1, May 31, 2007.

  1. When I'm vacationing in the Adirondaks, I take powdered chemicals to process
    film wherever I camp. At home, I would normally use distilled water for the
    developer, however I don't want to haul any extra water and I would use stram or
    pristine looking pond or lake water. It is documented that the Adirondak waters
    have high mercury levels compared to natural waters elsewhere due to the
    prevailing wind patterns and pollution. My question: Is it possible that the
    levels could be high enough to fog the film I'm developing even by a measurable
  2. Do you have a water filter that you use for your drinking water.You can get a pump filter, that will remove the heavy metals (mercury) from your water.
  3. Elemental mercury is deposited in the region by power plant emissions, is transformed into methyl mercury by bacteria, and bioaccumulates up the food chain. The levels of mercury in wildlife are orders of magnitude higher than that in the water itself. Levels measured in loons are often in the 3ppm range.

    I can't imagine that mercury levels in parts per billion would affect your film chemistry.
  4. Terence, I'm going to rain on the parade a bit. Sorry.

    (i) Why in the world would you process using lake water of unknown composition, when you could pack out the undeveloped film, and process using treated city water or distilled water when you get back?

    (ii) Once you've finished processing, how are you disposing of your chemicals? You're not putting your used dev and (god help us) your used fix in that pristine Adirondack groundwater, are you? Just asking. I hope you're letting the water evaporate and packing out the sludge, but seriously, life is too short.
  5. I also don't quite understand. Drying these negatives so they are clean would seem to be a problem, then how in the world do you keep the negatives undamaged - stick them in sleeves then in your pack? Surely there has to be a better way. I would clearly label EI and process at home.
  6. How do you plan on getting rid of the used chemicals? I'd prefer not having someone dumping silver (among other things) into the "pristine looking" pond water. Although I have heard that amoebae can help to reduce grain.
  7. Kodak has been assuring us for decades that used chemicals in quantities likely to be used by amateurs may safely be dumped down the drain. Sewage treatment plants aren't set up to remove them. Their primary concern is to make sure that harmful bacteria don't get into the groundwater or lakes, rivers, or the ocean.

    You might actually have higher mercury levels in your tap water at home than is found in some seemingly pristine mountain lake. I doubt that mercury would fog the film, although years ago "mercury intensifier" was often used to put some density in underexposed negatives. My guess is that it would be more important to worry about mercury in the stop bath, fixer, and wash water acting as intensifier then its effect on the developer.
  8. Thanks for the responces: I do this so I can assure myself that I have good photos before I leave. (Once time years ago, I took 5 rolls and came up empty handed after a shutter problem.) I also may shoot some 4x5 s this year. Any negs I handle get rewashed when I get home and that has worked for me in the past. I've done both B&W and C41 this way.
    Al - I believe that for many Adirondak ponds the mercury level is higher than any public drinking water. Yes, mercury has been used as an intensifier, but the levels used in intensification are much higher than would completely fog the film to D-max in a developer.

    Still Aaron is right based on other searches I just did, the water level is low but gets trapped so to speak in the wildlife.

    And while in the past I've dumped the used chems in the trash bag I carry out figuring the paper products will absorb the fluid, especially since we pack out other peoples garbage, I must confess that last time I did this the garbage bag wasn't as good as I expected and I was 'dripping' as I walked. Not much I could do about it at that point.

    So this year I am changing my plans due to these comments and another thing I just read. I will be using a milk jug to cart out the waste fluid and I will take in a quart of distilled water for the developers using HC110 for the first time. Stop and fixer and a preliminary wash will use available water. The first post-fix wash is just a soak in about a quart of water having most of the contaminents and the second wash is stream water I dump on the ground. This year I'm not going to try to do color on sight as it is difficult to maintain 100degrees F. (yes I've done that near a campfire - not really a enjoyable prospect like the other photo efforts.)
  9. Life has a way of changing things - and this year with rain each evening , I not only didn't shoot B&W or process on site, I only took a dozen color photos. I going to ruin my reputation - anyway next year's trip will be different and I promise to post my results.

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