Love them or hate them, fireworks bring more than a light show to San Diego.
Fireworks contain a wide range of highly toxic chemicals, which vary with each firework. Some of the concerns about fireworks are sulfur-coal compounds in the propellant; heavy metals such as radioactive barium, strontium, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, and chromium; and the anion perchlorate (ClO4-), most often found in the form of potassium perchlorate in fireworks, producing colored smokes and bursts.
Each night during the summer, Sea World’s “Sky Blast” show results in hundreds of pounds of fireworks shot from a barge located in eastern Mission Bay. Despite a daily rain of trash, spent fireworks debris and some fireworks that failed to discharge, Sea World had never secured a discharge permit until San Diego Coastkeeper’s June 2006 filing of a 60-day Notice of Intent to bring litigation for failing to secure the required permit.
In 2007, the Regional Water Quality Control Board granted the nation’s first National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit regulating the discharge of fireworks under the Clean Water Act. The waste discharge requirements allow Sea World to continue up to 150 fireworks shows annually, but with specific protections to ensure dangerous chemicals that might fall into Mission Bay do not harm the public or environment.
The Sea World permit includes three monitoring periods a year designed to study impacts from the amusement park’s largest firework displays each year, including monitoring of water quality, sediment and bottom-dwelling organisms for forty-one fireworks-related pollutants. This is critical as it allows us to assess potential harm when it is most likely to occur and before the pollutants are dispersed to other areas of the bay.