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Assessing the Impacts of Pollution from Fireworks

Assessing the Impacts of Pollution from Fireworks June 20, 2023
Photo of fireworks above Lake George Village.
Fireworks above Lake George Village. Increases in the frequency and numbers of fireworks throughout the nation have raised concerns about chemicals in drinking water.

On July 13, Lake George Village will present a hybrid fireworks and light show – the light show comprising illuminated, synchronized and choreographed drones articulating shapes, forms and images.

It may be the first show above Lake George to star drones and, if environmentalists have their way, among the last fireworks shows as mounting concerns about the impacts of pyrotechnics on water quality grow more widespread. Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had awarded Texas Tech University a $2.5 million grant to study the effects of perchlorate – a chemical used in fireworks – on drinking water sources. The study will be of interest to Lake George residents because, according to Dr. Carol Collins, a limnologist and Assembly Point resident, more than 3,000 people draw their drinking water from the lake, her family included. “Perchlorate, normally associated with defense and military operations, is a toxic persistent inorganic pollutant that will reside in our lake waters for decades to come,” said Collins.

“Protecting our water resources and ensuring clean drinking water is one of EPA’s top priorities,” said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “With this research grant, Texas Tech University will be able to provide states with additional knowledge about how to protect drinking water from perchlorate contamination.”

According to the EPA, exposure to perchlorate can interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said he welcomed additional studies about the effects of fireworks on drinking water.

He said he had been frustrated in his attempts to gather data about their impacts on Lake George because of the difficulty of collecting water samples after fireworks shows.

A 2009 study conducted by the Lake George Association indicated that low concentrations of perchlorate had no effect on water quality.

But Carol Collins dismissed the study as lacking in rigor. “Fireworks are toxic to the environment and human health. The glitter, bursts, flashes, showers, whistles, glow, colors and propellants are all generated by toxic compounds and metals,” she said.

Robert Blais, Lake George’s Director of Special Events, said the studies he has reviewed found that the impacts of fireworks are benign.

While he favored more shows of drones, he said they were expensive – between $25,000 and $30,000 per show.

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