ACA Urges Washington Legislature to Amend Copper Antifouling Bill

ACA Urges Washington Legislature to Amend Copper Antifouling Bill

Earlier this month, ACA urged the Washington State Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee and House Environment & Energy Committee to amend a bill pertaining to copper-based antifouling paints on recreational water vessels. In a letter to both committees, ACA urged lawmakers to add a provision to Senate Bill 6210 and companion House Bill 2385 requiring the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) to take further investigative action by completing another study and convening a stakeholder advisory committee to review the state of science, fully understand potential alternatives, and examine environmental tradeoffs and any potential unintended impacts of a ban on the use of copper in antifouling paints for recreational vessels.

ACA also recommended that this study be completed by 2025 at the latest to allow for stakeholder engagement.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 70.300.020 – Restrictions on Sale and Application of Antifouling Paint Containing Copper bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of new recreational vessels with copper-based antifouling paint beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. However, DOE recently submitted a report and recommendations to the Washington State Legislature — to be considered during the 2020 legislative session — that would delay this ban until Jan.1, 2026.

ACA agrees with DOE’s assessment to delay the ban of the use of copper in antifouling paints for an extended period. Due to the lack of available science, DOE reported that no new sufficient information changed its previous conclusion that copper-based paints may be safer than at least some of the alternative products. However, ACA does not believe a total ban on copper is the best or final solution for recreational vessel owners in the State of Washington.

If the Washington Legislature heeds ACA’s suggestion that DOE undertake further study of the issue, ACA hopes to actively participate and provide any necessary information to DOE to ensure the final report includes all available science, environmental modeling, and performance data.

Notably, Washington’s 2020 legislative session is a short one: just 60 days.

While the bill is being considered by the Legislature, state resources will not be dedicated to enforcement. If the Legislature chooses to leave the ban in place, state officials have indicated they will “reprioritize and start enforcing the ban as needed and as resources permit.”


In 2011, the Washington State Legislature passed RCW 70.300.020 – Restrictions on Sale and Application of Antifouling Paint Containing Copper, to phase out the use of copper-based antifouling paints on recreational boats. A recreational vessel is defined in the law as being no more than 65 feet in length and used primarily for pleasure. The 2011 bill also directed DOE to study antifouling paints and report back to the Legislature about its findings in 2017. The first stage of the copper restriction was scheduled to take effect on Jan.1, 2018.

DOE’s report to the Legislature was completed in 2017 and found that there is not a proven, superior biocide alternative to copper. Thus, DOE recommended that the Legislature delay the ban on copper-based antifouling paints so it could conduct additional research. In response to Ecology’s 2017 report and recommendations, the Legislature passed Substitute House Bill (SHB) 2634 in 2018, which delayed the ban on copper-based antifouling paints until 2021. SHB 2634 provided DOE with ample time to conduct further research and analysis of antifouling paints and their ingredients, including the relative impacts of copper versus non-copper biocides using models based on Washington State data: Puget Sound marina designs and water quality conditions. SHB 2634 also directed Ecology to report back to the Legislature about their review and recommendations for regulatory changes, if any, in 2019.

DOE 2019 Report and Recommendations

Pursuant to the Legislature’s directive in SHB 2634, DOE submitted its report and recommendations last month. Specifically, Ecology recommends that the Legislature amend RCW 70.300.020 in the following ways during the 2020 legislative session:

  • Delay the existing statutory ban on copper-based antifouling paints until 2026 to allow for more scientific research and information to be developed;
  • Ban the sale and application of antifouling paints containing Cybutryne/Irgarol for recreational vessels in Washington; and
  • Grant Ecology authority to request information from paint manufacturers regarding ingredients, leach rates, and other relevant data.

In general, ACA supports this approach because it allows the department to conduct additional scientific research that will help fill existing data gaps before the Legislature makes a final determination on whether to allow, prohibit, or restrict the use of copper-based antifouling paints on recreational vessels in the state.

ACA will continue to engage with DOE and the Washington State Legislature on behalf of its members.

Contact ACA’s Rhett Cash for more information.


Copy link
Powered by Social Snap