State DPR reminds boaters of new copper paint regulations

New policy went into effect July 1; final list of regulated paints is not yet available.

SANTA BARBARA — California’s recreational boaters are officially navigating through a new set of regulations for antifouling paints, or AFPs. The state’s Department of Pesticide Regulations’ (DPR) new requirements officially went into effect on July 1, governing what types of bottom paints boaters could use without harming local marine life.

A DPR representative attended the Santa Barbara Harbor Commission meeting on July 19 and spoke with commissioners about the new regulations and what it could mean for boaters.

Paint manufacturers, under recently updated state law, are no long allowed to import or sell noncompliant paints to dealers of retailers. The manufacturers, however, can continue to sell or use noncompliant paints currently in stock through June 30, 2020.

DPR officials implemented a new set of regulations surrounding AFPs on July 1; the new regulations govern “the rate at which copper can leach into the ocean from anti-fouling paints,” Santa Barbara Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman said.

“This is a major regulatory step being undertaken,” Kronman continued. “These regulations … will govern the types of bottom paints distributed by manufacturers and available to boatyards and recreational boaters.”

Aniela Burant, an environmental scientist with DPR, said copper from antifouling paints is considered a biocide and, hence, subject to DPR regulation.

Southern California’s saltwater marinas have the highest concentration of copper in the state, according to Burant. She added a DPR study found nearly 33 percent of waters in these marinas posed an “acute” (or short-term) threat to local organism. More than half of the saltwater marinas studied were a “chronic” (or long-term) threat to marine life.

The excess levels of copper in the waters of Southern California’s saltwater marinas triggered a series of regulatory actions, Burant told commissioners.

Burant reminded commissioners of the state law – 3 CCR Section 6190 – governing AFPs for recreational boaters. The regulation specifically prohibits copper-based antifouling paints and coatings with a pre-established leach rate. The regulation, which went into effect July 1, does not apply to excursion vessels, fishing boats, passenger ferries or tugboats.

More than 90 AFP products are registered with DPR as being compliant (not exceeding mandated leach rate ceiling).

Pettit Vivid antifouling paint could be an example of a compliant product, according to Burant.

Boaters are urged to refer to the labeling posted on the AFPs can, as it doubles to inform users whether the paint is legal.

The labeling for Hempel’s Antifouling Olympic Hi, for example, features a “Danger” warning, meaning it could be safe for commercial boaters (fishing boats, Navy vessels, etc.) but not recreational boats.

DPR is still putting together a list of approved paints, Burant told commissioners. She added she personally is not involved with enforcement of AFPs but state officials to conduct marketplace inspections to determine whether paints sold in California are registered to be here and have DPR approved labeling.

A portion of Burant’s presentation mentioned mitigation strategies.

“We understand it takes time to see reductions in copper concentrations in marinas and harbors and boatyard capacity for turnover is limited. I think that we can accomplish reductions in copper concentrations in marinas,” Burant said.

Commissioner Lang Sligh asked Burant why commercial vessels are exempt under the DPR regulation. Burant replied recreational boats stay in a marina or harbor for longer periods of time, meaning they pose a higher risk of leaching than commercial or Navy vessels.

“There’s not a lot of inflow and outflow [in marinas], and so it’s kind of a big bathtub. The commercial vessels and the military and government vessels, they’re often in and out and not staying for long periods of time in a harbor or in a marina,” Burant told Sleigh. “Since the recreational vessels are there for long periods of time they leach out right into the marina.”

Commissioner Merit McRae, meanwhile, asked questions about enforcement staff and leach rate calculations.

Boaters who have questions about the DPR policy on AFPs and copper paints can reach Burant at 916-445-2799 or aniela.burant@cdpr.ca.gov.

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