Boy, it’s all arsenic all the time on this blog!
An incredible 72 million m3 of debris was created when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. A survey of this debris now reveals that an estimated 1,740 metric tons of arsenic could leach into groundwater from unlined landfills where the materials are being disposed (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es0622812).
Here’s EPA’s page on arsenic treated wood, and here’s the cheerleader page for same (mmm, industry advocacy websites, delicious!). Note that the EPA is currently working with the manufacturers to “voluntarily” phase out the use of Chromated Copper Arsenate in residential settings. Note that there are several alternatives available, all of them less toxic and equally effective. While this “voluntary” action limits direct exposure for certain types of people, old wood ending up in unlined landfills will overwhelmingly affect people who live near said landfills, namely the poor, and African American.
Even lined landfills leak eventually, and while other organic matter may degrade before the leaking, arsenic and heavy metals are not going anywhere. Unlined landfills, which is a fancy way of saying hole in the ground where you throw trash in, are completely unacceptable in this day and age in a so called developed country like the US of A. On the other hand, it is fashionable to refer to Louisiana as a third world country, so I guess anything goes for those kinds of people, eh.