This morning Bertram Levy of the Port Townsend Moorage Tenants Union sent along the following memo that makes three specific changes to the proposed legislation that phases out copper bottom to recreational boats under 65′.

"Old Norse Hauled Out" painted by the artist Martin Justin David.

Over the past ten days since we sent out the February 11 position paper on Senate Bill 5436, House Bill 1785 that is similar in many ways to the Senate bill, has been posted on the web.   Both bills have undergone hearings and some changes.

During this time, three members of the Moorage Tenants Union have been speaking to a variety of people, including paint manufacturers, members of the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association, The Port Manager, the Commissioners, Practical Sailor magazine, and the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.  We’re told it’s late in the game and that the bills are well along, so here are the changes we want in this legislation.

1)  Strike the proposed amendments in both bills that limit the definition of  a recreational boat to 65 feet, and include ALL recreational boats, regardless of size. There should be no exemption for recreational charter boats.

Rationale:  No justification exists to change the legal definition of recreational boat as it is found in 33 C.F.R. 6(V)§1362; or in the federal Clean Boating Act; or in Coast Guard regulations or literature.  The use of federal Vessel General Permits to suggest size limits on recreational boats is also not justified because VGP is about ballast water, deck wash, graywater and bilgewater discharges, not bottom paint.  Therefore, no size limit exists on the legal definition of a recreational boat and all should be included.

2)  Include all commercial and government vessels up to 79 feet in length in this legislation to phase out copper in bottom paint.

Rationale:  Commercial and government boats in the under-79 foot range are usually moored in marinas alongside recreational boats.  Many of them are recreational type vessels being used for commercial purposes.  They also are serviced in the same boat yards as recreational boats, often alongside them.  Copper levels in water, sediments and runoff from these boat yards is a mixture from all these boats, and to have a law allowing
a commercial or government boat to use copper but prohibiting the recreational boat next to it from doing the so is unfair, and will likely not reduce boat yard exposure to Clean Water Act citizen lawsuits. Including commercial and government vessels up to 79 feet will allow more accurate monitoring of copper in both the water column and runoff.

3)  Once the legislation is passed, include the following in the rulemaking process by state agencies:  In the initial phase-out period, boat yards will be prohibited from using, selling or applying paint containing more than 45% copper for all recreational vessels and all commercial and government vessels up to 79 feet.  AND:  The phase out time period will allow enough time for industry development of alternatives to copper.

Rationale:  The current bills address the sale of product rather than addressing the source of the problem, which is removal and application of the product. As a result, users can buy copper out of state or hoard pre-legislation product for future use.  From the standpoint of the user, the initial reduction to 30 or 35% is unrealistic since there is no effective product at that level except for the yet unproved biocides. This makes it unduly difficult for the user to comply.  The motivation for the paint industries to develop lower effective copper products is low, because sales of existing product are unchanged for  larger vessels.  In addition, there is no realistic standard for the paint industries to strive toward, since they can sell low copper product, even if ineffective, because the recreational boat owners have no other options.

There is a simple solution.  It is based on the 3-year studies by Practical Sailor (Vol. 35 no 3 and no 10, 2009 and Vol. 36 no. 3, 2010).  In these studies all available bottom paints on the market were tested in the warm waters of Florida and the cold waters of Connecticut.  While most of the paints had concentrations of copper over 60 to 70%, the surprise in the study was that one product, MarPro Supercoat with a copper concentration
of 45%, had one of the best performances up to 24 months.  In addition, it was the least expensive product at $90 a gallon.  It would be attractive for the users because of its independently-confirmed effectiveness and reasonable cost. Therefore, it should cause no objection by commercial and megayacht interests.

The rule therefore would simply be:

No bottom paint with concentration over 45% may be applied in Washington boat yards starting in (date to be determined by the State.)   This limit could be further reduced every 3 years.

Since most vessels presently use 67 to 70% copper, by setting this reduced but still effective level of copper there would be an immediate across the board reduction in copper content by one third. This means that storm water drainage in boatyards would be reduced by a third  in the following year.  There would be no loopholes.  Compliance would be managed by the boatyards and monitored by the Department of Ecology. Given a proven standard, the other paint companies would immediately have to transition to a product that works or be excluded from sales in Washington State.  In addition, by having another 3 years to develop a lower copper containing product, it would encourage more rapid development.  In fact there already exists a product with 25% copper but it uses zinc as a substitute. This would give time to evaluate the  environmental effect of increased zinc.

This is a different approach in which the ban is based on existing effective products and not on hopes, promises, and potential failures. From the standpoint of the Washington State legislation, it means a simple bill that will be easily complied with and with measurable effect.  It addresses the concerns of the Puget Soundkeepers on in-water vessels and boatyards.  It removes the veil of paranoia by boat yard owners and workers that they will be sued for violations. It gives the users an easy way to comply with the law and guarantees effective protection of the boats while still being affordable.

Everyone wins!