Boaters, scientists investigate apprehensions over TMDLs in workshop

Boaters, scientists investigate apprehensions over TMDLs in workshop

NEWPORT BEACH—Inherent concerns over the regulations of copper-based anti-fouling surfaces and implementations of copper total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) were discussed during a special strategy session hosted by the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC), April 21 at the Newport Beach Civic Center.

The workshop, which investigated strategies to obtain a clearer, more succinct understanding of the uniform statewide standard, was comprised of boaters, marina members, industry representatives and county officials.

RBOC’s goal is to dissuade the Regional Water Quality Control Board from instituting TMDLs in impaired bodies of water; however, the general consensus is restrictions are coming.

Copper, which is often used on boat hulls, reportedly has a negative effect on marine organisms and recreational harbor use. TMDLs help reduce the amount of copper released from these vessels, while protecting the habitat.

Shelly Anghera, a principal scientist at Anchor QEA, examined the TMDL process, along with past testing at Newport Beach.
“It’s about protecting and restoring back to what was originally intended of that environment,” Anghera said. “Think of it [TMDLs] like a bath tub. Every single faucet that comes into the bathtub is a source and if you have multiple drains and every drain is a possible sink, there’s a way for that contaminant to get into the environment.”

She added: “So when you have a bathtub that has concentrations of contaminants that are too much to keep everything happy in that bathtub, you’ve got to somehow start shutting off the faucets. You go through these evaluations and you look at the concentrations coming out of these faucets and you make a decision. Do you naturally turn each faucet off or do you find the one that is responsible for most of it?”

Anghera said a TMDL was implemented in 2002 by the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in portions of the Rhine Channel. She noted that six out of the 37 samples tested exceeded California copper toxic rules, and, in dredge monitoring samples, the concentration exceeded the threshold of 3.1 micrograms per liter. Since then, copper TMDLs have arrived in San Diego and most recently, Marina del Rey.

“This is a total learning curve for most boaters,” John Adriany, a San Diego Yacht Club member. “You want to keep your boat maintained. You don’t really worry what’s on the bottom of the hull.”

“We’re three years into monitoring at Shelter Island, so we have a little bit of a track record,” he said. “We have UCSD and Scripps Institute of Oceanography in our backyard, and they have the intellectual interest to take a look and understand copper, geochemistry and biochemistry. It gives us a lot of information that we would not have had. That’s given us a crystal ball perhaps on what copper is like in a real environment— a litmus test on the TMDL as to what things were done correctly and what things could have been improved.”

Adriany referred to a 2004 study that revealed 100 percent of the boats in the area used copper paint.

“We’re finding a tremendous amount of inaccuracy,” Adriany said. “Estimates that are being made are far from reality.”

In Marina del Rey, Michael Tripp of the Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors Planning Division said the harbor first received a TMDL docket in 2006, which has recently been reopened. A new restriction calls for at least 85 percent of boats in the marina to have non-copper paint by March of 2024.

“We have about 4,700 boats in our harbor and we’ve consulted with our boatyards and when they’re doing their regular maintenance, the two of them together do about 150 boats a year sand or repaint them,” he said. “If you put that together you can see there is no possible way we’re going to get all of those boats repainted in the next 10 years.”

Tripp urged other harbors in Southern California to conduct site specific studies, noting that Marina del Ray has until May 13 to comment to the state board regarding proposed changes to the TMDL.

“This is happening in Marina del Rey, but we suspect we’re just a test case to all the other harbors,” he said. “We want you to be aware of it so you can talk to your local represented officials, have them contact the EPA, so we can all move forward with one voice on this.”

Areas of Newport Bay, Oceanside Harbor and San Diego Bay are all scheduled TMDL sites in the next five to seven years.             RBOC president Karen Rhyne suggested adoption of the Biotic Ligand Model (BLM), a method to determine site-specific copper standards that might be feasible for Newport Beach and allow for correct assessment of marine water impairments. She also urged attendees to contact elected officials for assistance.

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