Poison Poles - A Report About Their Toxic Trail and Safer Alternatives
The Toxic Trail 
"There was an enforcement case at the San Diego Naval Station in 1993 where the Navy stored treated wood pilings on the ground without a roof for several years. As a result of rain [which has a low average in San Diego], the chemicals of arsenic, [and creosote --] acenaphthene, anthracene, benzopyrene, benzo-fluorathene, chrysene, fluoranthene, fluorene, pyrene, and dibenzofuran [--] from the pilings dripped and seeped into the soil. The soil sample analysis showed hazardous levels of these chemicals. The Department of Toxic Substance Control [California] made a finding that the poles were not subject to the requirements under [one section of state law] because the poles were not considered a waste. However, the site may still be subject to [other state law] for site cleanup of a hazardous waste contamination. This enforcement case supports the need for consumer awareness of the proper handling and in this case storage of treated wood. Hazardous waste contaminated soils can be hazardous to the environment and costly to mitigate."43
California Department of Toxic Substance Control, 1996 

Storage of Treated Poles

Toxic releases and worker exposure

Treated poles act as leaky containers for toxic chemicals. When many poles are stored at a single location, their contents can add up to a lot of toxic material. Some have found that the most significant contamination sites are storage and distribution yards which have been reported widely. 

Bell Canada has about 90 pole storage facilities in Quebec and Ontario, each containing 10-400 poles. These sites not only pose a serious threat to workers, but to the surrounding community and the environment. 

Bell Canada uses mostly CCA-treated poles in Ontario and penta-treated poles in Quebec. The company tested soil and groundwater at 14 pole storage sites in Quebec and 14 in Ontario. It found: q Groundwater and surface soil concentrations of wood preservative chemicals exceeded the Provincial clean-up criteria at 9 sites by factors of 2 to 10. In Quebec, clean-up criteria were exceeded by factors as high as 100 at 10 sites.

back to chem. treatment of wood || contents || on to treated poles in use