Thursday, June 26, 2014
Scientists and state health officials say there is little evidence – because little research exits – that debris or chemicals from fireworks are harmful to the environment.
A representative for a company that sets off fireworks over Murrells Inlet on Monday nights said his company is doing everything possible to make the show environmentally friendly.
This is after recent concerns about debris found in the water after the first Monday Night Lights show on June 16.
The fireworks show, set for each Monday night at 9 p.m. until Labor Day, is sponsored by the Marshwalk Restaurants Association.
That group has agreed to clean up debris the morning after each event and has taken other steps to protect the environment.
“The Marshwalk group has asked us to remove tin foil that is in the fireworks’ packaging and we are going to do that,” said Rick Tyler, the Southeast regional operations manager for Zambelli Fireworks. “I don’t know what else we can do.”
He said most likely the length of the fireworks show will be affected since removing the foil affects control of pre-ignition.
Tyler added that Zambelli does fireworks shows up and down the East Coast and this is the first time he has heard complaints about debris.
“There are dozens of chemicals in each device and they change every week,” Tyler said. “Fireworks are consumed before they hit the ground. The only thing that hits the ground or water is cardboard.”
Dr. Susan Libes, a scientist from Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Marine and Wetlands Studies, stated in a report, “Little peer reviewed information exists regarding the impact of fireworks on aquatic ecosystems.”
She went on to say that pollutants of concern from fireworks based on the ingredient list provided are: ammonia and potassium perchlorate, antimony (and compounds), barium compounds, copper salts, potassium phthalate, and various petroleum products including nitrated asphalt, asphaltum, bitumen, pitch and tar and napthol pitch.
“It is hard to assess their threats because we don’t know: (1) the degree to which these chemicals are fully combusted, (2) how much of the pollutants are deposited into a unit volume of water or square meter of marsh mud, and (3) knowledge of the ecotoxicology of these chemicals is limited.”
Jim Beasley, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said, “Depending on the type of fireworks being used, various chemicals such as perchlorate might be present. Regarding potential water quality impacts, the effect, if any, would depend on the composition and quantity of the residue, its location, whether it is flushing or concentrating in sensitive areas, and the ability of the aquatic environment to lessen impacts. Good housekeeping, such as debris removal from the water or marsh, would minimize aesthetic and water quality concerns.”
Tyler said he and many others involved with Zambelli are retired fire department personnel who are also concerned about the environment.
He added that he has seen a lot of other debris in the water in Murrells Inlet.
“I was on the pier (recently) and I saw bottles, cigarette butts, plastic bags, six pack holders and all kinds of trash in the Inlet that doesn’t have anything to do with fireworks,” Tyler said.
Al Hitchcock, co-owner of Drunken Jack’s, said no one cares more about the Inlet than he and other restaurant owners.
“We are concerned about the Inlet like everybody else,” Hitchcock said. “But we are also concerned about people enjoying fireworks and enjoying Murrells Inlet.”
He said there were more than 1,000 people lining the Marshwalk on June 16 and that number will grow as the summer continues.
“We want people who are enjoying dinner to hang around a little longer,” Hitchcock said.
“We are not asking for anything. The restaurants foot the bill.”