Calif. permit would target copper-based paints

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A proposed California permit to help curb the release of pesticides is targeting copper-based paints used by boaters, according to a report from online news site San Diego News Room.

Copper-based paints, which are applied to the bottoms of boats to stop marine life from attaching and increasing drag, also prevent boats from picking up non-native species and bringing them into local waters when they return.

“Without those pesticides, the boats don’t run,” Roy Hobbs, Executive Officer of Shelter Island Boatyard and founding director of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, told the News Room.

According to the site, the origins of the permit started in San Diego Bay, where the San Diego Regional Water Resource Quality Control Board did a series of studies in the ’90s that showed that high levels of copper were found in boat basins. At high levels, copper can affect the growth and reproduction of marine life, including oysters, sea urchins, and mussels. By 2001, the board released a draft report showing that roughly 90 percent of the copper found in the basin came from copper-based paints.

The Port of San Diego has received a two-year grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to test out non-toxic paints. However, Hobbs told the site that the San Diego Port Tenants Association has been working on a solution to copper-based paints since 1987 and alternative paints can cost twice as much or more.

The permit is being written by the State and Regional Water Resource Quality Control Boards and could be rolled out in the next two years, according to the report. The permit would require marinas with more than 10 slips to monitor water quality and bottom sediment pollution, which could cost as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. If marinas do not satisfy certain environmental standards as related to copper, they could have their occupancy reduced as a remediation method.

Groups such as the Marina Recreation Association are strongly opposed to the permit, which they say threatens an industry already hit hard by the economy.

The copper controversy has popped up elsewhere, including the Netherlands — where copper-based paint was banned during the first half of the 2000s – and in other coastal states, including Florida and Connecticut.

To read the full report from the News Room, click here.

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