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  QUESTION: Appropriate disposal of lead painted wood. 18 Jan 2004, Queensland Australia

Several houses on the land where I live have been surrounded for years by piles of timber contaminated with old lead paint. Much of this timber is now rotten and will not be used. Some has been piled up in a paddock with a view to burning it. I objected to this proposed solution and suggested that we dig a hole and bury it instead. This raised issues about future leaching problems and the possible contamination of food which might be grown in the area.

Given that it is not practical to gather up this rotting wood and take it to a contaminated waste disposal facility, what is the most responsible way of getting rid of it?

There are 2 houses within 100 metres of the proposed burning site with rainwater tanks. The next nearest houses are 200-250 metres away and there are several others in a half a kilometre radius. The area is rural but there is a large area of bush in the general downwind direction of the proposed burning site.

If burning is the best disposal method, how far away should people disconnect their rainwater tanks and would it be safe to reconnect them again after a heavy downpour.

ANSWER: 19 Jan 2004

Dear Madam,

The policy on appropriate disposal of lead painted wood varies from council to council so I first of all contacted Maroochy Shire Council who said that the lead agency on all policy to do with lead paint is the Queensland Health Department and they gave me the phone number for Public Health - Sunshine Coast ph 54794655.

An Environmental Health Officer called back in response to the message I left at Public Health - Sunshine Coast. She said you definitely can't burn the wood because of the hazard of adding lead fumes to the air but she will call the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Queensland & ask them if they have any specific requirements re: waste disposal. She has not yet called back so you might like to ring them yourself at Pollution Line [QLD callers only, no mobiles] 1300130372 otherwise 32248157.

In the meantime, I phoned Caloundra City Council on 54208200 [though you could phone them on 1300 650112] who said that there is a total ban on burning of waste in the Council area under Local Law 7 - Public Health. The Environmental Health Officer at Council said the best option is to take the wood to Witta Transfer Station, Crnr Cooke & Witta Rds, Witta, which opens Weds Sat & Sun 6:30am-5:15pm but burying it is a second option. Its not a declared toxic waste like asbestos so the fees at the waste station would not be excessive but also there is no council requirement for any special conditions on the burial of the wood as to depth or whether it needs to be wrapped in plastic.

In my own opinion, if taking it to Witta is not going to happen then I agree with your proposal and you could certainly overcome any potential for lead contaminated leachate by wrapping the wood in plastic before burial. The uptake by plants of lead from soil is not usually significant though lead contaminated soil can be ingested if root vegetables are not washed and peeled and leafy vegetables are not washed. See our gardening factsheet at and good luck!

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

From: The LEAD Group
Sent: Monday, 19 January 2004 15:27

Dear Madam,

Further to my first email I received a call back from the Environmental Health Officer at Public Health - Sunshine Coast who said that she had contacted the local EPA who said that unless you were planning to remove the paint from the wood before disposing of the wood, it would be best to take the painted wood to a landfill because the lead can leach into the soil and at a landfill the leachate is treated. She said it is possibly less work to hire a truck to go to landfill than it is to bury the wood.

Yours sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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