Washington to Phase Out Copper Bottom Paint

We’re not quite sure why this phase-out has such a long timeline.

A new bill passed by the Washington state legislature this month begins the phase-out of copper bottom paint on all recreational boats less than 65-feet in length. The legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on May 3, calls for a gradual elimination of the paint’s application by 2020. No recreational vessels over 65-feet in length will be impacted by the new law at any point. No vessel with copper bottom paint will be prevented from visiting Washington State.

The first step in the law calls for a study to be performed in 2017 examining the effectiveness of non-copper bottom paint to ensure enough alternatives to copper paint are available in the market. In 2018, no new recreational boats up to 65-feet in length may be sold in Washington state with copper paint applied. In 2020, no copper paint will be available at point-of-sale for recreational boats up to 65-feet in length, and copper paint may not be applied to recreational boats up to 65-feet in length.

Copper-based paints have long been effective in preventing marine growth on the bottom of vessels. But the metal can have a detrimental effect on wildlife, particularly salmon in the region, even at small doses. Washington boatyards have been dealing with ever increasing copper regulations since 1992 when the first boatyard permit was issued.

The bill was introduced during the recent legislative session as a proactive measure by the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA)  to address growing pressure on its member boatyards by local environmental groups. In 2009, five boatyards received intent-to-sue letters from one group, alleging each boatyard was in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Each boatyard settled with the group, costing the yards more than a combined $77,000 in legal fees. Following the settlements, NMTA began taking steps to help its members reduce the level of copper and other water-borne pollutants flowing from their properties.

For the complete story, go to www.allatsea.net.

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