Antifoul and Invasive Species


Antifouling paints work largely by releasing biocides into the water, thus preventing organisms from attaching themselves to the bottom of boats. Whilst this is good for keeping the hull clean, improving efficiency through the water and preventing the spread of non native invasive species, it does mean that some of the toxic ingredients leach into the water. Even though this slow leaching can cause toxins to build up in the food chain, the main problems associated with antifouling occur when high concentrations of antifouling enter the water in runoff from high pressure hosing and scrapings from boat wash down. High concentrations of copper tend to be found in the sediment around lift out points in estuaries and rivers and can find their way into the food chain causing a wide range of environmental problems.

Antifouling products themselves are covered by a variety of regulations:

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations (COSHH)
  • Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986
  • Biocidal Products Regulations (2001)
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) administers the product approval process
  • The user also has a ‘duty of care’ to comply with the products conditions of use

It is obvious therefore that marinas and boat yards play an important role in complying with legislation and in preventing antifoul toxins from entering the water course. Run off from hull cleaning operations at marinas and boatyards is classified as trade effluent. This means it should only disposed of into the sewerage system with the prior consent of the local water company, or, if going into a watercourse or to ground, the EA/SEPA/EAW/EANI. Where it is not possible to obtain a discharge consent, waste run off should be contained on-site for offsite disposal (by a specialist contractor) or should be contained and cleaned using a closed loop washdown system.