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Saturday, October 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Chemical samples collected, but environmental impact of Rhythm & Booms still to be determined
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The study examined 67 plants, nine soil samples and 11 tissue and soil concentrations in three specific areas affected by the Rhythm & Booms display.
Credit:Rhythm & Booms

Madison's Committee on the Environment presented preliminary data Monday from a study evaluating the environmental impacts of the Rhythm & Booms fireworks held each year at Warner Park.

The "progress report" presented by James Bennett, an adjunct professor of botany at the University of Wisconsin, demonstrated the presence of certain chemicals in plants near the park, but it did not identify how severe the presence of those chemicals is.

Bennett said all the raw data for the study is in, but none of it has been analyzed. The committee did not know when the final results of the study would be available.

"Until we get the data statistically analyzed, I don't think we can say anything about it, really," Bennett said.

Perchlorate, which was found in the nearby water, would likely be a result of the fireworks display, but other chemicals could be the result of storm water, according to Brynn Bemis, a hydrogeologist involved in the study.

Rhythm & Booms, which is branded as the largest fireworks display in the Midwest, has come under increased scrutiny from community members who want it relocated due to its noise level, cost and environmental impact.

The event has been held since 1993 to celebrate the Fourth of July.

The study examined 67 plants, nine soil samples and 11 tissue and soil concentrations in three specific areas affected by the Rhythm & Booms display. Samples were collected this year on June 22 and July 23, before and after the most recent event.

According to Debra McCue, vice president of Madison Fireworks Fund, Inc, the group that runs Rhythm & Booms, a contract with the city of Madison has not been reached for the 2013 show. She said by this time of the year an agreement would normally be in place.

Bemis warned of the limits of the report.

"There's been a lot of people, especially since the meeting on Thursday, who have asked, 'Well, what is this report going to tell us?'" she said. "And although we haven't written it yet, it's very unlikely that the report is going to say, definitively, 'We should do the fireworks or we should not do the fireworks.'"

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