The Port of San Diego, CA, will spend up to $500,000 to fund projects and research designed to develop innovative, non-toxic alternatives to copper-based hull coatings.
The seven-member Board of Port Commissioners voted unanimously Oct. 5 to approve three environmental projects with the goal of phasing out the use of copper-based coatings in San Diego Bay.
The total cost of the projects, to be funded by the port's environmental fund, is estimated at up to $265,000. The board also approved an additional $235,000 to be set aside in the environmental fund for additional hull paint research.
Copper-based hull paints have created high levels of copper in San Diego Bay, degrading the water quality. The port, marinas and other parties are under orders from a state agency to clean up copper contamination in San Diego Bay's Shelter Island Yacht Basin.
The three projects will be conducted over the next year. They are:
• Development of an alternative hull paint formulation utilizing chemical compounds by Dr. Shaoyi Jiang, Boeing-Roundhill Professor with the University of Washington.
• Development of a biologically active, biocide-free coating that uses chitosan, an organic compound similar to the material found in crustacean shells. This alternative is being proposed by ePaint, based in East Falmouth, MA.
• An alternative hull paint that uses nano-technology for anti-abrasion and corrosion protection. This project is proposed by Xurex, a New Mexico-based company specializing in nano-technology.
In 1996, high concentrations of copper in the water of the Shelter Island Yacht Basin prompted the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to add the basin to the State's Clean Water Act list of impaired water bodies. The board also developed a total maximum daily load—the amount of new copper that can be introduced to the waters each day—for the Shelter Island Yacht Basin and is requiring a 76% reduction in copper loading within 17 years.
"A critical element in reducing copper loads is transitioning boats from copper to non-copper hull paints," said Karen Holman, Senior Environmental Specialist with the Port of San Diego's Environmental Services Department. "To do so successfully, we need to find viable alternatives so that a phase-out of copper is possible."
The Board of Port Commissioners passed a resolution on Dec. 1, 2009 announcing its commitment to achieve reductions in copper levels within, or in advance of, regulatory requirements set by the Regional and State Water Quality Control Boards.
In 2006, an environmental fund was created to pay for projects that go beyond state and federal regulations. Since then, $5.9 million has been allocated for about 50 projects, most of which have been completed. These include enhancing fish habitats in San Diego Bay, restoring the J Street salt marsh in Chula Vista, and constructing osprey nesting platforms throughout the Port tidelands.