Protecting Boats and Water Quality

Posted: June 13, 2013  |  By: EPA

In California, and in coastal communities throughout the United States, water quality is significantly impacted by the copper used to coat boat hulls, large and small. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), a grantee of EPA, identified cost-effective methods for boat owners to protect both their boats and water quality. EPA’s grant assisted DTSC in identifying boat hull coatings that can reduce copper pollution in marinas, while boosting boat performance and cost-effective maintenance over the long-term. Like its predecessor EPA grant, implemented by the Unified Port of San Diego, this project successfully established the viability of non-copper anti-fouling boat hull coatings for both performance and cost-effectiveness.  However, while the San Diego project looked at both biocide and non-biocide coatings, in this DTSC project, the grantee solely studied the effectiveness of non-biocide coatings, as well as alternative painting and stripping methods.

Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San DiegoA biocide is a chemical agent capable of killing living organisms. They often contain heavy metals, such as copper, and are frequently used in boat hull paint to repel marine organisms. When marine organisms attach themselves (known as “fouling”) to boat bottoms, they can cause damage to the boat's structural integrity and reduce the vessel's fuel efficiency. Biocides can leach into water bodies from boat hull coatings. As a result, coastal areas nation-wide are experiencing myriad water quality challenges.

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