Todd Shupe Says Residents Right To Be Worried About Former Footprint Of Wood-Treatment Plant

Why worry about chemically-treated wood? Look no further than Edmonton, the capital of Canada’s Alberta province, for your answer. According to a March 17, 2018 article from the local Edmonton Sun newspaper, the community was recently warned about “soil and groundwater contaminated with a laundry list of potentially cancer-causing substances.” The source? A long-shuttered wood treatment plant that previously treated “railroad ties, poles, posts and lumber” with chemicals designed to ward off rot and insects. According to Todd Shupe, this concern is not limited to Canada and its this specific field of wood science that he’s been fighting to address for decades. That’s because Mr. Shupe was a former wood sciences lab director for Louisiana State University from 1994 through 2014 so he’s up-to-speed on the types of chemicals that very likely seeped into the ground in northeast Edmonton.

According to the article, the local health services office reached out to the developer of the houses that now sit partially upon the footprint of the former wood treatment plant. The purpose of the correspondence was to order the developer to “build a fence around the contaminated land to reduce potential health risks to the public.” That’s a start, says Todd Shupe, but it’s up to fellow wood sciences experts like him to keep looking into the chemicals used in wood treatment applications. When he was working as a lab director, Mr. Shupe and fellow scientists would conduct mechanical, physical and chemical tests on new or existing wood biocides and coatings. The purpose of these tests was to gain approval or re-registration status from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Per the newspaper article, Alberta Environment and Parks also reached out to the former owner of the wood treatment plant in hopes of it taking environmental samples, creating an action plan and removing contaminants. The above steps are exactly what could happen here in the U.S. if proper remediation efforts aren’t followed prior to construction. The heavy metals used as wood preservatives are toxic to human health and if improperly disposed of, are very likely to seep into the ground below.

Todd Shupe holds a Ph.D. in wood sciences and has devoted years to improving his field of study. Presently, he says that fellow scientists are researching alternatives to the landfilling of treated wood and development of metal-free wood preservatives. There’s still work to be done, but the ongoing situation in Edmonton is one that could easily unfold closer to home if proper oversight isn’t in place every time hammers start swinging.

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.