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topic 20696

Treating copper sulphate waste as school project

A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2018


I am a student in Canada. I am doing a project for my chemistry class. The problem is we are to come up with a way to convert a sizable volume of copper sulfate [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] solution waste liquid to solids that can be safely sent to landfill and water which can be safely poured down the drain without any danger to the environment. I was wondering if anyone would have any ideas as to how to go about doing this.

Your help is greatly appreciated


Nick L.
- Canada


Hi Nick. It's not quite clear to me whether this is a "real" project and you truly & actually intend to pour a large amount of treated waste down the drain, or whether this is just a hypothetical project, a 'thought experiment'. If you actually intend to do this, forget it, forget it, forget it -- the idea of untrained students being responsible for wastewater treatment is completely unacceptable.

If this is purely a hypothetical project as a lesson in chemistry, so we can forget about regulations, treatment permits, manifests, operator certifications, Right-to-Know announcements for the public, training, safety equipment, personal protective equipment, cradle-to-grave responsibility, testing, chain of custody, and all that other stuff … 0000 steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] will reduce the soluble copper content tremendously, then you can neutralize with lime to precipitate most of the copper and some of the iron, and filter it out for disposal. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

July 19, 2018 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi!
I am working to decrease the waste that my lab produces by precipitating out copper, nickel, and zinc ions from a solution until the ions concentrations are below the EPA acceptable level. I began by precipitating out the ions using sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), but the liquid layer is still very blue in color, so copper ions specifically must still be in solution. I was considering plating out the copper onto aluminum foil and just adding that to my solid waste container. Is this a viable option? Will copper plate out onto aluminum foil?


Abigail Johnson
- Marion, Indiana, USA

July 2018

A. Hi Abigail. I believe the process you are thinking about is called cementation. Soapless steel wool, rather than aluminum foil, should work well for it.

My protogé told me years ago that scrap automobiles and other scrap steel were sometimes placed in rivers and streams to remove copper ions way back when. I sometimes feel like I remember seeing this during air travel many decades ago, but really don't know whether I remember it or the images are just the product of a focused imagination. In any case, yes, the copper will spontaneously plate out onto the steel, and steel wool has a huge surface area available for it.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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