Aug 26, 2016

EPA Seeks Comments on Draft Aquatic Life Ambient Estuarine/Marine Water Quality Criteria for Copper

(PAINT.ORG) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a July 29-published Federal Register notice, asked for comments on its Draft Aquatic Life Ambient Estuarine/Marine Water Quality Criteria for Copper—2016. The draft includes EPA's Biotic Ligand Model test method for copper toxicity to marine life.

The draft BLM could benefit boaters and marinas faced with strict regulation of copper-based anti-fouling paint, especially in California, where regulators have set strict limits on dissolved copper in Marina del Rey and other basins, leading to restrictions on the use of copper-based paint.

If approved, BLM would provide a cost-effective scientific tool to determine copper toxicity, and could persuade environmental regulators to decline to impose unneeded mitigation measures.

EPA will accept comments submitted through Sept. 27. In order to allow EPA to finalize the proposal quickly, ACA is currently evaluating the proposal and working with allied industry partners to determine whether to file comments.

EPA's proposal recommends that states incorporate into their water quality criteria the agency's recently-developed saltwater biotic ligand model (BLM) and the latest scientific information for estuarine/marine aquatic organisms. According to the notice, "the updated recommended criteria will be particularly beneficial in the adoption of water quality standards for the protection of aquatic life in and around coastal harbors and marinas, where antifouling paints and coatings on vessels and marine structures represent one of the most commonly identified sources of copper to the estuarine/marine environment."

Notably, California's Marina del Rey copper loading exceeds the current Clean Water Act thresholds, and the California water authorities are considering drastic mitigation measures, including the reduction of the use of copper-based antifouling coatings, changes in under water hull cleaning practices, and possible dredging. ACA's Antifouling Coatings Committee last year hosted a multi-stakeholder workshop in California's Marina del Rey on its copper total maximum daily load (TMDL), including industry, L.A. Regional Water Quality Board (LARWQCB), California State Lands Commission, California Department of Pesticide Regulations, U.S. Navy, and environmental services contractors. ACA was also instrumental in securing passage of California Assembly Bill 425, which directs the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to develop mitigation measures regarding copper-based antifouling coatings to protect aquatic environments, and was only signed into law on Oct. 5, 2013. ACA maintains that LARWQCB's suggested TMDL ignores the intended purpose of the law, and bypasses the scientific evaluation by DPR. ACA strongly believes that the mitigation strategies required from Bill 425 should be given time to take effect, and that the water agency is acting without the complete scientific picture.

California AB 425, Antifouling Paint Registration and Mitigation, requires that DPR establish a leach rate for copper-based antifouling paint used on recreational vessels and make recommendations for appropriate mitigation measures that may be implemented to address the protection of aquatic environments from the effects of exposure to that paint. The direction to DPR will ensure that the DPR registration for low-leach-rate, copper-based antifouling paint is completed by a date certain, and provide DPR the flexibility to consider all available mechanisms to achieve mitigation.

An EPA Fact Sheet on the Water Quality Criteria for Copper report is available here.