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From CA, a Turning Point on Antifouling

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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With the support of the coatings industry, California has approved a new law that will help shape the future of antifouling technology.

California AB 425, Antifouling Paint Registration and Mitigation, requires the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to determine by Feb. 1, 2014, a leach rate for copper-based antifouling paint used on recreational vessels and recommend mitigation measures to protect aquatic environments from the effects of exposure to the paint.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law Oct. 5.

'Global Implications'

The new law takes baby steps compared to its unsuccessful predecessor, California SB 623, which had proposed to ban the use of copper in antifouling paint for use on pleasure craft.

On the other hand, coating manufacturers say the measure signals a sea change for marine coatings—and not just in California.

antifouling paint
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Marine Invasions Research Lab

An inspector examines a fouled ship in San Francisco. The coatings industry says no marine coating alternative has been as effective as copper-based antifouling.

"The results of the study and the mitigation strategies developed by DPR will not just determine the course for antifouling coatings in California, but will also have global implications," the American Coatings Association, a supporter of the bill, said in a press release.

The legislation, which passed both the Assembly and Senate with overwhelming support, was introduced in February by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-78). Addressing concerns from ACA, the measure keeps the legislation's text concise and allows the DPR flexibility in making recommendations for other mitigation issues.

Current California law requires every manufacturer, importer and dealer of any pesticide to obtain a certificate of registration from DPR before the pesticide is offered for sale.

"ACA will continue to work closely with the author, staff, and sponsors of the bill as well as DPR to ensure fair treatment for effective antifouling coatings in California," the association said.

Developing 'Sound and Balanced' Policy

Many groups have targeted the use of copper in antifouling paints as contributing to adverse water conditions in some California marinas.

The state is under intense pressure to reduce the copper load in its waters. In the Port of San Diego, all eight marina basins have been found to have an overload of copper and the state has ordered at least one, Shelter Island Yacht Basin, to reduce its copper loading by 76 percent by the year 2028.

ACA's Antifouling Workgroup contends that antifouling paints release copper at a controlled rate, and excessive underwater hull cleaning contributes to a high percentage of the copper released into marinas; however, modern copper-based antifouling paints are designed to be effective without frequent cleaning, coating makers say.

AB425 Antifouling  Bill
Mats Hulander

Research has stepped up worldwide to produce effective, toxin-free antifoulants. Swedish researchers were developing a non-copper barnacle buster in 2011.

"Copper-based paint is effective in keeping boat hulls free from damaging organisms like barnacles and algae, but it also poses a threat to aquatic animal and plant life when it leaches into water where recreational boats are moored," Atkins said in a press release.

"We need to complete the scientific analysis in order to develop sound and balanced environmental policy that protects our marine ecosystem without being overly burdensome."

Research Underway

The new law's predecessor, SB 623, was withdrawn under pressure from ACA. The association contended that new evidence could change how copper-impaired waters are defined.

Fouled hull
Wikimedia Commons / Lamiot

California's new law requires the Department of Pesticide Regulation to determine by Feb. 1, 2014, if copper-based antifoulings should be registered as pesticides.

SB 623 would have required manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative, although ACA says the alternatives were not defined and have not been proved as effective or safe as current copper-based coatings.

In March 2011, members of ACA's Antifouling Workgroup and other affected registrants received a data request from the DPR for a protocol to accurately determine the impact of underwater hull cleaning on overall copper release from antifouling paint.

In June 2012, the Workgroup responded with the “In Water Hull Cleaning and Passive Leaching Study Protocol” and coordinated funding for the study among copper suppliers and copper-based antifouling registrants in California.

The purpose of the study was to determine the effect of underwater hull cleaning methods on several types of antifouling paints and to quantify the amount of copper that enters the water from passive leaching. A final report of the study will be published in the Journal of Biofouling.


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Antifoulants; Copper; Environmental Protection; Laws and litigation; Marine Coatings

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