Salt Water Applications

Treated Lumber

Selecting the correct type and preservative retention for treated wood used in salt water or brackish water projects is very important. The exposure to salt water, either through immersion or splash, will dictate the required preservative system – Micronized Copper Azole (MCA) or Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) – and the required preservative protection level.


For example, decking and railing on docks or piers will need to be treated with MCA at a .23 pcf (Critical Structure) retention level. For piling, seawalls, bulkheads, cross bracing, and other applications where the treated wood can be exposed directly to salt water, CCA treated wood of various retentions is recommended. 



This wood has been preserved by pressure-treatment with an EPA registered pesticide containing inorganic arsenic to protect it from insect attack and decay. Wood treated with inorganic arsenic should be used only where such protection is important. 


Inorganic arsenic penetrates deeply into and remains in the pressure treated wood for a long time. However, some chemical may migrate from treated wood into surrounding soil over time and may also be dislodged from the wood surface upon contact with skin. Exposure to inorganic arsenic may present certain hazards. Therefore, the following precautions should be taken both when handling the treated wood and in determining where to use or dispose of the treated wood.


Additional information on Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treated wood products is available on the EPA website.


  • All sawdust and construction debris should be cleaned up and disposed of after construction.
  • Do not use treated wood under circumstances where the preservative may become a component of food or animal feed. Examples of such sites would be use of mulch from recycled arsenic-treated wood, cutting boards, counter tops, animal bedding, and structures or containers for storing animal feed or human food.
  • Treated wood should not be used where it may come into direct or indirect contact with drinking water, except for uses involving incidental contact such as docks and bridges.


  • Dispose of treated wood by ordinary trash collection. Treated wood should not be burned in open fires or in stoves, fireplaces, or residential boilers because toxic chemicals may be produced as part of the smoke and ashes. Treated wood from commercial or industrial use (e.g., construction sites) may be burned only in commercial or industrial incinerators or boilers in accordance with state and Federal regulations.
  • Avoid frequent or prolonged inhalation of sawdust from treated wood. When sawing, sanding and machining treated wood, wear a dust mask. Whenever possible, these operations should be performed outdoors to avoid indoor accumulations or airborne sawdust from treated wood.
  • When power-sawing and machining, wear goggles to protect eyes from flying particles.
  • Wear gloves when working with the wood. After working with the wood, and before eating, drinking, toileting, and use of tobacco products, wash exposed areas thoroughly.
  • Because preservatives or sawdust may accumulate on clothes, they should be laundered before reuse. Wash work clothes separately from other household clothing.
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