Current as of April 2008
Whether treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), another preservative, or left untreated, all wood structures eventually need to be replaced. The service life of wood preserved with CCA is typically 20-30 years, which is 4-6 times longer than untreated wood. The extended service life of CCA-treated wood helps to reduce the harvesting of trees and saves this precious natural resource.
CCA Treated Wood Disposal
Disposal of CCA-treated wood is generally under the jurisdiction of state and local solid waste management authorities. And many state and local governments have specific regulations, guidelines, and recommendations for the management and disposal of discarded CCA-treated wood. CCA-treated wood used for residential uses can be disposed with regular municipal trash (i.e., municipal solid waste, not yard waste) in many areas; it should not be burned or used as compost or mulch. However, because state or local laws may be stricter than federal requirements it is recommended that you contact the waste management agency for your state when it comes time to replace any treated wood structure. It should be noted, however, that EPA does not believe there is any health-related reason to remove or replace CCA-treated wood structures, including decks and playground equipment.
What does the science say about the disposal of CCA-treated wood?
The current science does not indicate any adverse effects on the environment when CCA-treated wood is disposed of properly, in accordance with state and federal regulations.
A 2005 analysis by Red Oak Consulting of the data and research concerning the disposal of CCA-treated wood in unlined Florida construction and demolition (C&D) landfills concluded:
"There is no evidence that the disposal of CCA-treated wood in unlined landfills is contributing to arsenic levels in groundwater."
The State of California disposes of treated wood wastes in lined, non-hazardous landfills. Studies performed for the Western Wood Preservers Institute in March 2004 found that no additional regulatory action was warranted because:
"The arsenic levels in leachate from landfills accepting treated wood were virtually identical to levels at landfills that do not. The concentrations of arsenic which might result from treated wood products were either below the drinking water standard or below the Limit Threshold Concentration Value modeled for landfills with composite liners."
Read the 2005 report by Red Oak Consulting (A Division of Malcolm Pirnie) CCA-treated Wood Disposal Analysis
A 2007 study by Saxe et al. estimated the amount of CCA-treated wood disposed in unlined landfills in Florida and assessed whether there was any evidence to indicate that these disposal practices have resulted in an impact to groundwater at these sites.
The Saxe et al. study concluded:
“The refined estimate for CCA-treated wood disposal, showing a significant amount of CCA-treated wood disposed in Florida, and field-scale groundwater data at disposal sites, showing no evidence of arsenic impacts from unlined disposal sites, indicates that requiring disposal in hazardous waste landfills, would be unnecessary.”
(Saxe, J.K., F.J. Wannamaker, S.W. Conklin, T.F. Shupe, and B.C. Beck. 2007. Evaluating landfill disposal of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood and potential effects on groundwater: Evidence from Florida. Chemosphere 66:496-504)
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