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Port Resolves to Reduce Copper Contaminants in San Diego Bay

Contact: Dale Frost (619) 686-6461, John Gilmore, (619) 686-7206 on .

The Port District has committed to developing the policies and programs necessary to reduce copper inputs from recreational and commercial boats. (Courtesy: Stephanie Bauer)The Port of San Diego has taken a leadership role to eliminate the use of copper-based paint on the hulls of recreational boats in San Diego Bay. The goal is to preserve marine life and water quality in the bay.

The Board of Port Commissioners on December 1, 2009 passed a resolution stating its commitment to achieve reductions in copper levels within or in advance of regulatory requirements set by the Regional and State Water Quality Control Boards. Regulations call for an incremental copper reduction of 10 percent by 2012.

The Port District has committed to developing the policies and programs necessary to reduce copper inputs from recreational and commercial boats. The resolution supports ongoing research to find effective, non-toxic hull paint alternatives to replace the copper anti-fouling paints that leach into the bay.

"The Port of San Diego could become the world leader in this area," said Stephen P. Cushman, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners. He said he supports research efforts to find non-toxic and effective anti-fouling paint alternatives.

Copper-based anti-fouling paints, used to prevent marine growth from attaching to the hulls of recreational boats, have created high levels of copper in San Diego Bay.

The Port of San Diego has taken a leadership role to eliminate the use of copper-based paint on the hulls of recreational boats in San Diego Bay. (Courtesy: Stephanie Bauer)In 1996, high concentrations of copper in the water of the Shelter Island Yacht Basin prompted the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board to add the site to the State's Clean Water Act list of impaired water bodies. The Shelter Island Yacht basin, along with other marinas located throughout the bay, do not meet water quality standards set by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

When voting in support of the Board resolution, Port Commissioner Lee Burdick said reaching this goal would require "regulatory teeth."

Passage of the resolution also commits the Port to working with the marinas and other Port tenants to identify and implement copper reduction strategies.

Recently, the Port District received a $190,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to identify non-toxic alternatives to copper-based hull coatings. Last year the Port's environmental services team submersed copper- free painted fiberglass panels into the bay for testing.

The Port and marinas are facing regulatory deadlines set by the State of California to reduce the amount of copper in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin. Ultimately, a 76 percent reduction is required by 2022.

To learn more about the anti-fouling paints, watch a video produced by the Port Communications and Community Services Department.