Alcohol disposal


The U. S. Clean Water Act as revised in 1990 [Federal Register 
55(42), July 24; also 40 CFR 122 and 403] bans chemicals from drain 
disposal if their flashpoint (closed cup) is less than 140 degrees F. 
Any solution containing 10% or more ethyl alcohol has a flashpoint 
below 140 degrees F and is therefore disallowed; 70% alcohol has a 
flashpoint of 69 degrees F.

The U. S. EPA specifically prohibits dilution as a means of making 
hazardous waste non-hazardous [40 CFR 268.3 and 403.6(d)].

The ultimate authority is always your local wastewater treatment 
plant.  Call them for advise.  Check also with your local fire 
marshal and insurance carrier, as they may heve an interest in you 
pouring flammable liquid down the drain.  This is not to say that you 
cannot dispose of alcohol via drain disposal.  There are ways to do 
it safely, without dilution.  Trickle it from a spigotted carboy at a 
rate that dilution occurs naturally from the facility's normal flow 
of wastewater.  We usually recommend a rate of one gallon an hour. 
BUT, get permission first!

Details on these matters, including explantions for the regulations 
and how to deal productively with treatment authorities, may be found 
in our book, Hazardous Materials in the Histopathology Laboratory, 
3rd edition; see especially Chapters 15, 19 and 20.


Richard W. Dapson, Ph.D.
Anatech Ltd.
Battle Creek, MI
800-ANATECH (800-262-8324)
Web address:  

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