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Creosote

Article 27, Title 25 (27-2501 through 27-2513) Phase-Out of Creosote

What is creosote?

Creosote is the name used for a variety of products: wood creosote, coal tar creosote, coal tar, coal tar pitch and coal tar pitch volatiles. These products are mixtures of many chemicals created by burning beech and other woods or coal, or from the resin of creosote bushes.

Wood creosote is a colorless to yellowish greasy liquid with a smoky odor and burned taste. It has historically been used as a disinfectant, a laxative, and a cough treatment, but such uses are now considered obsolete. Coal tar creosote is the most widely used wood preservative in the United States. It consists of a thick, oily liquid typically amber to black in color.

The EPA has determined that coal tar creosote is a probable human carcinogen.

What is required by New York State law?

Article 27, Title 25, (27-2501 through 27-2513), of New York State Law, requires that after January 1, 2008:

  • Creosote or products containing creosote shall not be manufactured, sold or used in this state. Wood treated with creosote that is in use in this state as of such date may continue to be used in such use. Creosote or products containing creosote from New York State may be used in another state in accordance with that state's laws and regulations.
  • Neither creosote nor any wood or other product treated with or containing creosote shall be disposed of in this state, except in a permitted facility, in a landfill permitted by the department and approved by the department to accept this material and properly lined to prevent groundwater contamination, or by any other method approved by the department.
  • Neither creosote or any wood or other product treated with or containing creosote shall be burned in any manner in this state, including in fireplaces and stoves, except in a facility permitted to burn the specific type of creosote waste.

Are there exemptions in the law?

Yes, the law does not apply to:

  • Railroads,
  • The operation and/or maintenance of railroad and railroad shipping facilities,
  • Any electric corporation, nor the operation, use, or maintenance of any new or existing utility pole or facilities owned or used, in whole or in part, by a telephone corporation, utility company, or cable television company,
  • The use of one or more utility poles by any person in connection with the suspension or support of power, communications, utility wires, lines or cables and related equipment, antennae, lighting, signals, electric or electronic devices or similar equipment or apparatus,
  • Any public authority that owns and operates electric transmission or distribution lines, a municipally owned electric utility or a rural electric cooperative, nor shall it apply to the operation, use, or maintenance of any new or existing utility pole or facilities owned or used, in whole or in part, by any such public authority, municipally owned electric utility or rural electric cooperative, and
  • Until January 1, 2010, any existing marina or other facility for berthing and mooring of pleasure vessels, including rowboats and canoes, and the storage thereof, and any existing facility that services pleasure vessels other than an existing marina or other facility for berthing and mooring of pleasure vessels, or facility that services pleasure vessels owned and/or operated by a municipal entity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How must railroads or utility companies manage wood treated with creosote?

If the railroads or utility companies maintain control or ownership of the materials, the wood treated with creosote can be reused or stockpiled for re-use. These items can also be sold or marketed to other exempt entities for re-use. However, if they discard wood treated with creosote as waste, then it must be disposed of in accordance with the law. For marinas, an exemption from the requirement ended on January 1, 2010.

2. On or after January 1, 2008 will a railroad company be able to sell its used railroad ties to other railroads?

Yes, the law exempts railroads from application of Title 25. A railroad company will only be able to sell its railroad ties to other railroads for reuse as railroad ties.

3. Can damaged utility poles be chipped and used for mulch or bedding, or as firewood?

No. The law prohibits utility poles from being used as mulch, bedding or firewood. Damaged poles must be disposed of in an approved landfill or combustion facility, or repaired and/or reused by the utility companies.

4. Can a processor sell wood chips from wood treated with creosote (such as railroad ties or utility poles) to be burned as fuel in a Department approved facility?

Yes. The combustion facility which burns the chipped wood treated with cresosote must have a Part 360 permit which authorizes that combustion. The chipping of the cresosote-treated wood mut have a Part 360 permit which authorizes that chipping unless the chipping takes place on the property where the wood waste was generated.

5. Will it be permissible to reuse the railroad ties, utility poles or other creosote-containing products for other purposes such as landscaping, retaining walls, etc., on or after January 1, 2008?

No. After January 1, 2008 the law explicitly prohibits creosote or products containing creosote from being used or sold in this state. Railroad ties, utility poles, or materials that are treated with or otherwise contain creosote cannot be reused for other purposes such as landscaping or retaining walls, except as specifically provided for in Title 25.

6. I am a contractor working on renovation of a railroad or utility. What do I do with wood treated with creosote from the railroad or utility?

Renovation activities which result in disposal of wood treated with creosote from a railroad or utility must comply with the requirements of the law and dispose of the treated wood in a permitted landfill or combustion facility. If the railroad or utility maintain control or ownership of the materials, the wood treated with creosote can be stockpiled for re-use. These items can also be sold or marketed to other exempt entities for re-use.

7. I have a retaining wall/fence made from wood treated with creosote. Do I have to remove the retaining wall/fence under the new law?

No. If the retaining wall was in use prior to January 1, 2008, it does not have to be removed. If the wall/fence is removed, the waste generated from the removal must be disposed of in accordance with the law (see question 8).

8. How do I dispose of creosote or wood or any other product treated with or containing creosote?

There are different options for disposal depending on the source of the creosote waste.

Construction and Demolition Debris

Wood treated with creosote from construction and demolition (C&D) activities can be disposed of as C&D debris waste in a permitted municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill that accepts C&D debris,or at a permitted C&D debris landfill, or burned in a permitted municipal solid waste or hazardous waste combustion facility. Wood treated with creosote is considered adulterated and therefore cannot be disposed of at a land clearing debris landfill.

Industrial Waste

Industrial facilities, such as those engaged in the manufacture of treated wood, that dispose of industrial waste containing creosote must do so in a permitted landfill that accepts industrial waste, unless the waste qualifies as a hazardous waste. Creosote as a discarded commercial chemical product, off-specification species, container residue, or spill residues thereof, is a listed hazardous waste (U051) and must be managed as hazardous waste. Other creosote-coating wastes that qualify as hazardous waste include K001 (wastewater treatment sludges from creosote wood preserving) and F034 (wastewaters, drippage, etc. from creosote wood preserving). However, after January 1, 2008, no industry in New York State shall manufacture creosote or products containing creosote.

Household Waste

Household solid waste containing creosote or creosote-containing products, such as railroad ties can be disposed of as household waste or as C&D debris. Liquid products containing creosote (i.e., paints, coatings) can be brought to Household Hazardous Waste collection events or facilities. Wood treated with creosote shall not be burned in fireplaces, stoves, outdoor wood-fired boilers or open fires.

Commercial Waste

Solid waste containing creosote or creosote-containing products from commercial entities, such as landscaping and lumber yards, can be disposed of as MSW.