Water Quality Unchanged After Fireworks


Ocean water sampling in Laguna Beach after the July 4 holiday, ordered as a result of regulations believed to be the first of their kind in the nation, showed no significant impact, city officials said this week.

Laguna’s water officials expect to issue a report next week.

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Board, which regulates coastal waters from Laguna Beach to the Mexican border, for the first time required $1,500 permits for organizations or cities to discharge fireworks over bodies of water during Independence Day celebrations.

“Test results essentially are what we expected it to be: inconclusive. There is nothing spiking or anything that would attract our attention,” said Dave Schissler, Laguna’s director of water quality.

Officials at the private communities of Irvine Cove, Emerald Bay and Three Arch Bay, which put on their own fireworks displays from barges, obtained permits but did not confirm that they conducted water quality monitoring afterward.

“Ninety percent of what was tested for was non-detect. Any numbers at all were naturally occurring things like potassium and selenium, but well below any limits of concern,” Schissler said. “It didn’t really show anything that wasn’t natural to ocean water anyway.”

The federal Clean Water Act, enacted in 1972, requires permits for pollutants discharged into bodies of water, but no cities conducting fireworks displays ever obtained them previously. Enforcement was absent until environmental groups began threatening lawsuits in 2005, initially targeting the Sea World amusement park’s nightly displays and then municipal fireworks shows around San Diego.

Cities are being subjected to the same regulation as Sea World even though local events occur once a year, Schissler said.  “We did the testing as a matter of trying to develop a baseline over time. In this case there wasn’t anything elevated. Our goal is to have years of data put together to see if anything over time seems to change.”

Laguna’s fireworks show lights up the sky from Monument Point in Heisler Park over a state marine reserve. The hour-long show consisted of 776 fireworks, ranging from 2.5 inches to five inches, said Fire Chief Kris Head.

The control of fireworks displays in its infancy. “Before we couldn’t quantify the firework events. Now we are starting to,” said Michele Mata, a water resource control engineer with the San Diego board. Permits help regulators determine where shows occur and what areas should be considered for water quality monitoring, Mata said.


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