Because of increased environmental concerns, NFESC was asked by the NAVFAC
Criteria Office to review current Navy practices in the usage of treated wood products in the
marine environment, propose changes to those practices, and provide specific recommendations
for changes to relevant NAVFAC criteria documents.
Current Navy practice is generally to avoid the use of wood in favor of other materials
where practicable. In most cases this is due to performance considerations rather than
Where wood is specified, current criteria documents are used and are technically up-to-
date but quality assurance procedures have been inadequate. In a recent study it was found that
80 percent of Navy marine timber piling and 50 percent of timber pier components were below
Federal environmental regulations do not restrict the usage of treated wood for its
intended purpose. A possible exception is the sheen created when creosoted piling are driven but
this can be mitigated. Wood preservatives are EPA-registered pesticides and treated wood
products will be widely available for the foreseeable future. Treated wood removed from service
is not a hazardous waste and is not banned by federal law from landfills.
Local and state environmental regulations have restricted the marine use of treated wood.
In San Diego the improper storage of creosote piling by Navy PWC was cited by the county
because of concerns over "discharges." Similar local restrictions have not occurred at other Navy
activities contacted but in many areas the landfilling of treated wood removed from service has
been restricted or discouraged.
Ports in the Northwest have experienced increased environmental scrutiny of projects
involving treated wood in aquatic environments because of perceived environmental risks that
may or may not be accurate. The Western Wood Preserver's Institute (WWPI) has responded by
sponsoring the development of a risk assessment computer program designed to estimate actual
environmental risk. The program can be used by regulators and by project designers.
The following summarized best management practices are recommended where treated
wood is specified for marine environments:
Specify treated wood in terms of performance in accordance with American
WoodPreservers' Association Standards
If there is any cause for environmental concern, conduct a site-specific risk
Specify that wood treatments and handling methods comply with current industry
best management practices.
Specify that treated wood be inspected by an independent agency and again on site