SM PIER — When the fireworks are launched in one week into the dark evening sky, celebrating 100 years of the city’s most recognizable landmark, there could be an environmental price to pay.
That’s according to a recent city staff report that explored possible issues related to the highly anticipated pyrotechnics display for the Santa Monica Pier’s Centennial Celebration on Sept. 9 when approximately 6,400 individual fireworks will be set off.
The fireworks will contain potassium perchlorate — an oxidizer used as a propellant — and various metals including chromium, copper, mercury, strontium and zinc, which together create the colorful show.
“Ideally they are designed so that all the propellants and all of the metals that produce the colors will burn up so that the only thing you really are going to have is the paper residue from the fireworks,” Dean Kubani, the director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, said. “But obviously you do get some remains that are on the paper and some duds that don’t go off.”
Kubani said that while there’s very little research on the environmental and public health impacts from fireworks, he did find a report by the Environmental Protection Agency that found increased levels of perchlorate at a lake after several fireworks shows. High levels of perchlorate can affect thyroid function, especially in pregnant women and children.
It’s also been known to be a concern in drinking water, but Kubani points out that it shouldn’t be an issue locally because the fireworks will be ignited above the ocean from a barge.
“Based on the fact that fireworks are being launched daily around the world and thousands of times a year, we’re not really seeing any acute impacts,” Kubani said. “This isn’t going to create any more significant problems than just a regular fireworks show we have on the Fourth of July.”
There have been more environmentally friendly alternatives developed that use nitrate-based oxidants instead of perchlorate, producing less smoke and reducing the potential for water contamination, Kubani said. The fireworks are however new to the market and cost about six to eight times more than conventional counterparts.
The fireworks show, which will be put on by Pyro Spectaculars, is estimated to cost about $120,000.
Ben Franz-Knight, the executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp., said he doesn’t believe that the fireworks will results in any significant environmental impacts.
“We did look at the alternatives … but the fireworks used by Pyro Spectaculars are the safest for the technicians and is the industry standard,” Franz-Knight said.
The show is scheduled to start around 8:50 p.m. and will go no longer than 25 minutes. It’s the first such show at the pier in more than 20 years.
City staff began studying the issue after City Councilman Kevin McKeown in June requested that more environmentally-friendly alternatives be explored to keep up with City Hall’s sustainable reputation.
“The issue of toxic chemicals released by such displays has come up before the council several times in the past years,” McKeown said. “The pier has become a symbol of Santa Monica’s commitment to the (Santa Monica) Bay and the environment, and I hope this information from staff pushes us all to demand cleaner, greener fireworks for all local events in the future.”