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Push for 'green' paint

Silicon-based boat paint is less toxic for marine life than its copper-based counterpart, but it's also more expensive.

June 18, 2010|By Sarah Peters, sarah.peters@latimes.com

While Coastalkeeper won't pay the entire cost of painting a boat with nontoxic paint, the incentive should help, Hiemstra said.

However, the cost may be more than the boat owners from the rest of Newport Bay are willing to spend.

The application of the new types of nontoxic paint require that the existing layer of copper paint first be stripped from the bottom of the boat — a job that than can cost up to $4,000, Stewart said.

"This is going to help the environment, but hurt the boat owner's pocket," he said. "It's going to be a real arm-twister to get rid of copper paints."

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However, if you work out the math, Hiemstra said, the boat owner will actually break even in six to eight years, or even turn a profit from changing paints.

Copper paint needs to be reapplied about every two years and scrapped every eight to 10 years, while the silicone-based paints can last a decade before needing a new coat.

Although, the duration of silicone-based paints past eight years has not yet been tested, he said. So far, only five boats in Newport Harbor that he knows of have made the switch from copper-based to non-copper paints.

A second nontoxic option are epoxy-based paints. These paints are incredibly hard and can easily withstand routine cleanings, Hiemstra said, while the silicone-based paints are so slick that there won't be much cleaning necessary in the first place.

"For someone who isn't ready to scrape, then it's an added expense," Hiemstra said. "But for someone who is ready, it makes a whole lot of financial sense and a lot of people are beginning to realize that."

Heimstra hopes to see copper-painted boat bottoms cycle out as boat owners choose nontoxic paints, when they bring their boats in to be serviced by shipyards, he said.

The process may be made a little more difficult for boaters who are used to doing things a certain way for a long time, Stewart said.

"Let's put it this way: If you were used to buying a hotdog for a dollar and suddenly you were told that it was now five dollars, how would you feel?"

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