More on Disposal of CCA-Treated Wood

More on Disposal of CCA-Treated Wood

Your recent article (

EBN, March 1997), calling for the phase-out of CCA-pressure-treated wood because of the potential disposal problems associated with CCA-treated wood coming out-of-service, is a well written survey of the issue. While we disagree with several points made in the article, it is a thoughtful analysis. We are concerned that we produce, manage, and dispose of these products in a responsible manner.

For years, this industry has sought alternative preservatives, considered disposal alternatives, and funded scientific research on preservative reclamation. We believe we are taking the lead on the disposal issue. For example, alternatives to a CCA phase-out may include recycling options that (a) use the wood fiber in inorganic binders to form sheetrock-like material, which will not be disposed of by burning and which is likely to be indefinitely stable in landfills when it is disposed, and (b) pulping the wood, which may yield chromium lignosulfates currently used in drilling mud and useful wood pulp, while allowing arsenic and copper to be recovered from solution. Neither of these technologies is, as yet, proven and both require further research.

In the United States, CCA is the overwhelming choice for wood preservation because it is effective and economical for our end uses. As you suggest, the result of a phase-out would be that contractors erecting board walks, “do-it-yourselfers” building decks, highway departments installing guardrail posts, and utility companies replacing poles, could all expect to pay a much higher price, or sacrifice product longevity, or both.

Although we think your analysis is thorough, we do not think your conclusions and recommendations necessarily follow from it. At the present time, the “sky is not falling” with respect to landfill availability and there is not a crisis with respect to CCA-treated wood, which is a minor contributor. CCA-treated wood represents only a tiny fraction of solid waste—amounting to less than 1% of the total by our calculations. We recognize the long-term implications of the disposal issue and seek to find new ways to resolve this issue, but surely there are other materials for which a phase-out would have more impact.

We feel there is a reason to question

EBN’s objectivity when you insert the gratuitous aside that the exemption from the TCLP rule was “likely the result of strong lobbying pressure.” We have little influence over the EPA. The exemption was put in place because, after evaluation and public comment, the EPA found that a restriction was unnecessary. The exemption does not apply to all cases.

We readily agree that mishandled ash (as in the two examples cited) can cause health problems, but so can the mishandling of many products. Also, when high concentrations of CCA-treated wood are incinerated, you get high concentrations of arsenic in the ash. But the power plant burn you described was done to test CCA-treated wood as a fuel source; it was hardly a typical mix of waste. As quoted, the consultant sounds like a severe critic of CCA-treated wood incineration when, in reality, Mr. Fehrs neither condemns nor endorses it.

We urge caution regarding a phase-out. CCA-treated wood has been extensively used since 1933; its benefits and irritations are well known. Treating lumber with CCA extends the useful life of wood at least 10 times. No other preservative can make this claim. Other preservatives would increase the amount of lumber which must be disposed, thus exacerbating the situation. Therefore, not using CCA would increase the demand on our forests and our landfill sites. I submit that, before we rush hastily into alternative products or wholeheartedly embrace different preservatives, the building industry should consider carefully the environmental burdens that these new choices introduce. It could be that your cure to the disposal of CCA-treated wood—a phase-out—would be worse than the disease.

If a “magic” preservative or simple solution existed, we would all adopt it today. But none exists. Furthermore, there are no risk-free alternatives to pressure-treated wood products. Concrete, plastic, and steel all have serious negative environmental and economic consequences. But that is a story for another time.

The industry will continue to move on two fronts; one, to develop alternative preservatives or improve existing ones, and, two, address the disposal issue in ways that put less burden on the environment but remain economically feasible for the industry and for the public.

Gene S. Bartlow, CAEPresident & CEOAmerican Wood Preservers InstituteFairfax, Virginia

CSI Responds

I have read your article in the March 1997 issue of

Environmental Building News, concerning CCA-treated wood and its disposal at the end of its service life. I have also read the letter to you written by Mr. Gene S. Bartlow, President and CEO of American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI).

Chemical Specialties, Inc. has been a member and supporter of AWPI for over 15 years. In most cases, AWPI has accurately represented the pressure-treated wood industry and our company interests. And, we agree with most of the points that AWPI has made in response to your article.

However, AWPI has not accurately represented new preservatives that are being used successfully across the United States; preservatives that have been extensively tested and proven, using methods designed and approved by the American Wood Preservers Association, to be equally as effective in service as CCA.

Your article mentioned ACQ, a new preservative developed in response to increasing consumer demand for less-toxic products for use in outdoor projects. ACQ contains no chromium and no arsenic in its formulation, but imparts to wood the same long service life that consumers have come to expect from CCA-treated wood products. These treated wood products, sold in lumber yards and home centers as ACQ™ Preserve™, are satisfying consumers’ outdoor building needs in our country and abroad. Thanks for your thoughtful article.

Thomas A. Bailey

Marketing Manager

Chemical Specialties, Inc.Charlotte, North Carolina

Published April 1, 1997

(1997, April 1). More on Disposal of CCA-Treated Wood. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/editorial/more-disposal-cca-treated-wood

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