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Wood Treating


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


A wood treating facility normally consists of a wood or log preparation area, process building with pressure vessels, and numerous chemical storage tanks, drip or drying areas and a roofed wood storage area. Wood was treated with a preservative compound which was injected using a steam and pressure or dipping process. Some facilities have components of a water treatment system.


If the facility was active before 1980, they may have used coal tar creosote and/or pentachlorophenol for treating the wood. If the facility started after 1980, it is more likely that chromium, copper and arsenic (CCA) was used for treating wood.

Oily waste with tar or creosote oil and pentachlorophenol are the main contaminants from a wood treating industry.

Coal tar creosote, pentachlorophenol (PCP) and CCA are used as preservatives in the wood treating industry. Waste generated consists of water squeezed from the wood during processing, retort and cylinder sludge, process waste and spillage. Existence of less toxic forms of dibenzo-dioxins may also be associated with the waste and associated contaminated soils.

If the industry used CCA for treating the wood, then copper, chromium and arsenic would be the main contamination concern in the soil, surface water, groundwater and the sludge beneath the pit, lagoon or tank.


Wastewater generated during the treatment process, slugs, and tank bottoms is generally treated or stored on site in lined or unlined lagoons. If the lagoons are lined and monitored regularly, associated groundwater contamination is less likely. Unlined lagoons are a constant source of surface water as well as groundwater contamination.


Typically, the highest levels of soil contamination will be found in the drip areas adjacent to the pressure vessels, under the bulk storage tanks and beneath the lagoons. Soil samples should be collected in and around the facility as well as in any sumps or discolored area that may be present. Sludge samples should also be collected from the bottom of unlined lagoons, if sludge exists.

Groundwater samples should be collected from the top of the water table. An understanding of the hydrogeology of the underground strata is necessary to identify the sampling location for groundwater collection.

Additionally, contaminated buildings and associated demolition debris may be encountered at the abandoned wood treating facility. Decontamination and wipe sampling of these materials may be required prior to off-site landfill disposal.


Chromium, copper and arsenic analysis (if CCA is used in the industry)

Semivolatile organics analysis (if Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons, creosote, and pentachlorophenol is suspected)

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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