Environmental Group Sues to Nix ‘Big Bang’ Fireworks

Bill Pearl

The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, a San Diego based non-profit has filed a federal court lawsuit alleging the July 3 “Big Bang on the Bay” fireworks display presented by John Morris and his Naples Restaurant Group violated federal water protection laws, sending fireworks fallout containing toxic chemicals into Alamitos Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

In its federal court complaint, the Coastal Environment Rights Foundation states: “Typical firework constituents include, but are not limited to, aluminum, antimony, barium, carbon, calcium, chlorine, cesium, copper, iron, potassium, lithium, magnesium, oxidizers including nitrates, chlorates and perchlorates, phosphorus, sodium sulfur, strontium, titanium, and zinc.

Perchlorate, a particularly dangerous firework constituent, is exceedingly mobile in water and can persist for many decades under typical ground and surface water conditions. Perchlorate can also greatly impact human health and is regulated as a drinking water contaminant.

Recent studies have confirmed fireworks displays are a problematic source of perchlorate water contamination. The 2021 event was comprised of more than 735 fireworks.”

It alleges an NPDES (“National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System”) permit is required but acknowledges that a number of government entities – including the CA Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the City and Port of Long Beach –haven’t pursued the issues involved including notices of violation that the environmental group sent before it filed suit.

The group’s complaint says it notified the federal EPA and the CA Board and “is informed and believes ... that neither the EPA nor the State of California has commenced or is diligently prosecuting an action to redress the violations.”

A July 5, 2021 LBREPORT.com column by Doug Krikorian quotes Morris as saying he has all the proper and legal permits from the Coastal Commission, has put cones around the nearby trees that most affect the birds and “the birds have returned every year we have done the event. They’re not exactly an endangered species.”

In response to an initial notice by the environmental group and under an agreement with the group, Morris’ Big Bang on the Bay has monitored its discharge of fireworks since 2015.

Prior to the this year’s event, the Sierra Club’s Los Cerritos Wetlands Task Force (by Ann Cantrell and Ann Christensen) charged that the California Coastal Commission, Long Beach staff and Long Beach City Hall’s Special Events Office failed to apply local requirements in allowing the July 3 fireworks.

“We know the birds are nesting all around the bay. Monitoring their nests will not keep the babies from falling nor the adults from abandoning their nests,” they wrote Coastal Commission’s Long Beach office and the city’s Special Events Office prior to the event: “If the fireworks are not stopped, SCLCWTF is willing to help ID the nesting trees and to have volunteers on Oil Dock Road during the fireworks to rescue any displaced birds. Cones or tape cannot protect fallen birds. We beg you to deny public access to Oil Dock Road on July 3 to protect any fallen birds from being trampled.”

During the July 3, 2021 event, Cantrell walked through the area’s trees with Ann Christensen and a small group of others.  The day after, Cantrell emailed a supporter:

“It was horrendous. At the first earthshaking boom, four Snowy Egrets and a Black-crown Night Heron flew out of the tree we were guarding. We don’t know how many flightless babies were left in the tree. Puvunga Warriors stood under the tree holding a blanket in case any baby fellout during the 30 minutes of constant light and deafening noise.”

On “information and belief,” the environmental group’s Nov. 23, 2021 complaint alleges Morris and his restaurant haven’t applied for an NPDES permit ... but it doesn’t name any of the unresponsive government entities as co-defendants. The annual event has a local charitable beneficiary, Children Today, not named as a lawsuit defendant.

The group’s federal court complaint seeks an injunction “To enjoin defendants from discharging pollutants unless and until they obtain an NPDES permit.”

An order that Mr. Morris and his restaurant “pay civil monetary penalties for each violation of the CWA at $56,460 per day per violation for violations that occurred after Nov. 2, 2015”

An order that the defendants “take appropriate actions to restore the quality of United States waters impaired by their unlawful discharge of pollutants”

“Award plaintiff its reasonable costs of suit, including attorney, witness, expert and consultant fees.”

Bill Pearl is the publisher of lbreport.com, a local, online news source since August 2000.


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