The city of Madison's Committee on the Environment amended this year's contract with the organizers of Rhythm & Booms to move the fireworks display out of the Warner Park wetlands and into the parking lot. The pleas of the local advocacy group Wild Warner on behalf of the wildlife of Warner Park, complete with bird calls and bagged displays of firework debris, prevailed on the committee Monday to take measures to protect the wetlands.
The Common Council votes tonight, April 16, on the amended contract.
Launching the fireworks display from a parking lot would address the issue of pyrotechnic debris falling into the wetlands where thorough cleanup is difficult. Terry Kelly, who founded and ran the fireworks display for 20 years before announcing in March he was stepping down, had brought up the possibility of launching from the parking lot at a previous committee meeting.
At that meeting there was also discussion about the risk of perchlorate and other chemicals in the fireworks contaminating the water, plants and wildlife in the park. The committee issued a report on the environmental impacts of the fireworks from a baseline study done last year, which found increases in perchlorate levels in water and vegetation samples after Rhythm and Booms.
Committee members also strengthened the wording of the contract's cleanup requirements since they agreed these have proved inadequate in the past. They added specifications defining debris and the disposal of duds (explosives that have failed to go off) and extended the area covered.
In order to aid further study of the fireworks' effects, the committee added the requirement of a post-event report detailing the specific chemical makeup, volume and weight of explosives used, as well as the wind speed and direction at the time of launch.
The committee at first seemed uncertain of its ability to affect this year's display. It had recommended previously that low or no-perchlorate fireworks be used, but the Madison Fireworks Fund, the nonprofit that runs the display, said this was not currently feasible.
At Monday's meeting, though, the committee seemed to take to heart the admonition from one member of the public present that its job is to protect the environment, not Rhythm & Booms. In moving the launch location, strengthening clean up requirements and requiring a post-show report, they sought to protect the wetlands this year.