Daily News Archive
From July 22, 2002

Beyond Pesticides Petitions EPA to Send Billions of Board Feet of Arsenic-Treated Wood to Hazardous Waste Landfills

Beyond Pesticides today petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the disposal of billions of board feet of arsenic-treated wood with ordinary community waste and require that it be sent to hazardous waste landfills. Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based environmental and public health group, told EPA that the waste should be treated as hazardous and disposed in lined landfills to prevent leaching of arsenic.

"The disposal of arsenical-treated wood with ordinary community waste, allowed under the current exclusion from RCRA hazardous waste regulation, constitutes a serious public health and environmental threat and is in violation of the agency's standards," according to Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

The petition, filed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), cites the failure of EPA to regulate arsenic in accordance with its own hazardous waste regulations. The wood fails EPA's Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP), intended to simulate conditions in a landfill. The petition urges the agency to reverse a twenty-two year old exemption of arsenic-treated wood and wood products that was promulgated as a "temporary" exclusion. The petition says, "The rule was promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act's notice and comment requirements. Even assuming that the rule was valid for a short-term temporary exemption from RCRA, it certainly cannot legally support the permanent exemption from RCRA regulation is has become."

EPA entered into an agreement with the manufacturers of arsenic-treated wood February 12, 2002 that began a two-year phase-out of some uses of the wood (Learn more under Wood preservatives in the Daily News Archive). Beyond Pesticides and over a dozen other organizations have previously petitioned to ban all the heavy duty wood preservatives, filing a formal petition in December, 2001 to ban chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and pentachlorophenol, and then filing another petition to ban creosote in February, 2002. The groups maintain that the hazards of continued use are too great and safer alternative products and materials are now widely available in the marketplace.

The petition filed today challenges arsenic-treated wood's exemption from the hazardous waste classification, and points to mounting evidence of improper disposal and a dramatic increase of arsenic-treated wood entering the waste stream. Annually, over 138 million pounds of CCA are used to treat approximately 5.4 billion board feet of lumber, timbers, utility poles and other products, according to recent figures.