Copper in Newport Bay
Copper antifouling boat paints are known to be a significant source of copper (Toxics TMDL for San Diego Creek/Newport Bay Ca. USEPA 2000). These paints are designed to leach copper into the water, to reduce fouling on boat bottoms with barnacles and algae. Unfortunately, copper and other metals are known to be toxic to fish and other aquatic species. Coastkeeper is committed to addressing the issue of copper in the Back Bay.
Newport Bay Copper Reduction Project (2009-2012)
What? A campaign in Newport Bay to encourage boaters to switch from copper paint to non-toxic alternatives. The project aimed to reduce copper levels in Newport Bay through voluntary measures, instead of regulation.
Who? This program was a cooperative effort between Coastkeeper and the City of Newport Beach with a special incentive program for boat owners in the Balboa Yacht Basin.
Why? The goal of the project was to improve water quality in Newport Bay and reduce dissolved copper levels in Balboa Yacht Basin Marina to below California Toxics Rule (CTR) criteria. Coastkeeper seeked to create a situation where non-toxic bottom paint is on the whole competitive with copper- based paints, so that boaters do not see a major downside to using non-biocide paint. The expected outcome was reduced copper loads and improved water quality in the Bay, and a situation where the use of non-toxic bottom paints is common and is the preferred choice for boaters.
How? In order to achieve our goals, we used the following methods:
- Public Policy- A non-binding resolution by the City of Newport Beach to eliminate the use of non-biocide boat bottom paint in Newport Bay, and the implementation of specific city policies to motivate boaters to switch to non-biocide bottom paints.
- Boater Education- Coastkeeper, the City of Newport Beach, and Trace Marine Services educated boaters on the problems copper pollution is causing in the bay, the benefits of non-biocide paints, and the alternative bottom paint options available.
- Financial Incentives - For the Balboa Yacht Basin, we provided a small monetary incentive based on a percentage of the cost for the boat owner to switch to an alternative, anti-fouling bottom paint.
- Resources & Support- We assisted cooperating local boatyards and hull cleaning services in identifying and supporting the use of appropriate non-biocide bottom paints and developing alternative paint services.
- Water Monitoring- We are conducting water monitoring for dissolved copper in Balboa Yacht Basin Marina to document any improvements in water quality, and analyze the data to determine the copper load reductions achieved in Balboa Yacht Basin Marina and harbor wide.
In December 2012, four more boats converted to non-biocide bottom paints, and in January 2013, two more boats completed their conversions. We also identified a new alternative to copper biocide bottom paint, a product called Thorn-D, a non-toxic anti-fouling alternative. This product, produced by Micanti, is a polyester self-adhesive film with fibers that prevents the settlement of marine species to boat bottoms. We have also concluded our incentive program; financial assistance is no longer available to Balboa Yacht Basin boaters who want to make the switch to non-biocide bottom paint.
On September 25, 2012, a Newport Beach city boat that was painted with a non-biocide paint 15 months prior, was pulled from Balboa Yacht Basin for inspection. The paint was in good condition, showing that these paints are dependable! This photo illustrates how slippery these paints make the surface of the boat hull, which makes it difficult for marine organisms to attach to the bottom of the boat. It also makes cleaning the vessel relatively easy for boat cleaners.
Copper Paint in the News
- “Curbing the copper tide” – The OC Register, November 26, 2012
- “Eco-Friendly Hull Paint Funds Set to Expire Soon” – The Log, September 24, 2012
- “Newport Bay Copper Reduction Program Offers Boater Incentives”- The Log, July 9, 2010
- “Push for ‘green’ paint”- The Daily Pilot, June 18, 2010
- “Newport Beach boaters are urged to abandon copper-based paints” – The LA Times, May 1, 2008
- “Study: Paint in bay toxic” – The Daily Pilot, May 2, 2008
- “Campaign aims to decrease copper paint use” – OC Register, April 30, 2008
- Coastkeeper Press Release – September 12, 2012
- Coastkeeper Press Release - April 25, 2008
Lower Newport Bay Copper/metals Study: April 2006-August 2007
Background: In April of 2006, Orange County Coastkeeper began a study to investigate the contribution of copper from copper based boat paints to the water and sediment in the marinas of Lower Newport Bay. According to the USEPA, over fifty thousand pounds of copper leaches form bottom paint in Newport Bay each year. This study was designed to find out what happens to that copper once it is released into the marina.Does the copper remain in the marina water become adsorbed into the sediments, or is it flushed out of the bay with the tides?
Why is this research important? The State Board Copper Antifouling Paint Workgroup is currently investigating the contribution of copper from antifouling boat paints to marinas, as are other regional water boards and local agencies. This study provides useful data to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and state workgroup to help facilitate the development of the Metals TDML for Lower Newport Bay. Coastkeeper conducted this study under a contract from the city of Newport Beach, with funding provided by the Santa Ana Regional Control Board. The toxicity testing was funded by the California EPA Department of Pesticide Regulation.
How we did it: Water and sediment samples were collected from 8 marinas and the adjacent channels in the Lower Newport Bay, and analyzed for copper and other metals such as nickel, chromium, lead, arsenic, nickel, tin, cadmium, and zinc. The resulting data shows us the presence of copper and other metals in water and sediment, and concentrations in marinas compared to channel sites. This water and sediment quality data was critical to determining if copper boat paints are a significant source of contamination in Lower Newport Bay.