Ground- and surface-water contamination by pesticides used in the wood-preserving industry is widespread in the United States. Pine poles were treated with wood preservatives from 1902 to 1981 at a creosote works near Pensacola, Florida. Diesel fuel, creosote, and pentachlorophenol were discharged to two unlined impoundments that had a direct hydraulic connection to the sand-and-gravel aquifer. Evidence of wood-preserving waste contamination appears to be confined to the upper 30 meters of the aquifer. The waste plume extends downgradient approximately 300 meters south toward Pensacola Bay.
In 1983, the creosote works site was selected by the U.S. Geological Survey's Office of Hazardous Waste Hydrology as a national research demonstration area to apply the latest techniques for characterizing hazardous waste problems. The multidisciplinary research effort is aimed at studying processes that affect the occurrence, transport, transformations, and fate of the toxic contaminants associated with wood preservatives in the environment. Clusters of two to five wells were constructed at different depths at nine sites to define the depth of contamination. Research studies are investigating sorption, dispersion, dilution, chemical reactions, bacterially mediated transformations, quality assurance, plume hydrodynamics, and the ultimate fate of these complex organic wastes.