Fireworks among worst type of marine debris

HANALEI — Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana, executive director, Hanalei Watershed Hui, says the time has come to start thinking about the impact that setting off fireworks over the ocean is having on the marine environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has extensive studies on land contamination and particulate exposure on people and wildlife from fireworks sites. Recent studies on fresh water impact are underway but less is known about ocean water.

The members of Hanalei Watershed Hui, however, say the people that live and work near Hanalei Bay are concerned that the plastic, paper and chemical residue from fireworks are having a detrimental impact.

“Let’s think about the fishery and marine life and not shoot over the bay and into the water,” said Ka‘aumoana.

Powerful firecrackers and large fireworks displays requiring permits are the greatest concern, said Ka‘aumoana, but so are the more common and less explosive varieties that sparkle, spin, whistle, smoke or ooze out smelly substances. Most will use some amount of powders and other pollutants that would be dangerous to sea life.

Until more is known, Ka‘aumoana said that just a little housekeeping could go a long way in preventing unnecessary pollution.

She asked that people shooting off fireworks on the beach clean up the plastic and paper residue that is left behind – before volunteers come out the next day to pick up what hasn’t already been swept out into the bay.

“We are not the recipient of marine debris; we are the creator of marine debris, and fireworks are among the worst,” she said.

“Anything left on beach is going to be in the water in the morning.”

Hanalei Bay is part of the humpback whale come back sanctuary and the site of a fishery. Ka‘aumoana said the bay is a vital part of the health and vitality of the community.

“This is our icebox,” she added.

The Kaua‘i Fire Department requires a permit to set off firecrackers to persons ages 18 or older, and only licensed pyro-technicians are allowed permits to ignite large fireworks.

The fire department offers safety tips for setting off fireworks but there is currently no readily available information about the environmental impact.

Contact the Hanalei Watershed Hui at 826-1985. For information on fireworks safety contact the Fire Department at 241-4980.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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