I can't help but point out how ironic and hypocritical I think this is. Does anyone else think it's odd that an organization whose mission is about environmental stewardship is polluting waters in violation of the federal Clean Water Act? Hmmm.
In case you're curious, SeaWorld's mission is:
Based on a long-term commitment to education, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove strive to provide an enthusiastic, imaginative, and intellectually stimulating atmosphere to help students and guests develop a lifelong appreciation, understanding, and stewardship for our environment.I'm Zoo member, but have no plans to visit the Anheuser-Busch-owned circus better known as SeaWorld.
Specifically the goals are...
- To instill in students and guests of all ages an appreciation for science and a respect for all living creatures and habitats.
- To conserve our valuable natural resources by increasing awareness of the interrelationships of humans and the environment.
- To increase students' and guests' basic competencies in science, math, and other disciplines.
- To be an educational resource to the world.
SeaWorld suspends fireworks show
Environmentalists raise issue of water pollution
By Terry Rodgers
August 24, 2006
SeaWorld has suspended indefinitely its nightly fireworks show over Mission Bay and will apply for a potentially precedent-setting permit that would regulate pyrotechnics as a water pollutant.
SeaWorld has stopped the shows since Sunday to avoid a lawsuit from San Diego Coastkeeper, an environmental group that contends the chemical and paper residue falling into Mission Bay from spent fireworks constitutes a discharge of pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act.
“There are pollutants being discharged and the law says you need a permit,” said Marco Gonzalez, an attorney for Coastkeeper.
If water-quality regulators approve SeaWorld's application for a discharge permit, they could require others who display fireworks over bodies of water to apply for similar permits. Coastal cities that shoot pyrotechnics from piers, the San Diego Unified Port District, the fairgrounds in Del Mar and a host of other places could be affected.
“The implications of this are very significant,” said John Robertus, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, the agency that will weigh the merits of SeaWorld's application.
While fireworks firms routinely obtain permits from local fire departments, pyrotechnics have not been regulated by water-quality agencies.
“It has not been done anywhere in the U.S. that I am aware of,” Robertus said. “Locally, we have not seen a need to regulate that.”
Coastkeeper's attorney said he hopes the SeaWorld controversy will prompt the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento to require a permit for fireworks.
“The state (should) create a general permit for fireworks displays with standardized monitoring and reporting requirements,” Gonzalez said.
San Diego and the state Coastal Commission currently allow SeaWorld to have as many as 150 fireworks shows annually. The marine-themed park typically conducts 120 to 125 shows per year, said SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz. Most of its pyrotechnic displays occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
During each “Summer Nights SkyBlast” show, which lasts about six minutes, some 240 fireworks shells are launched and exploded over Mission Bay from a barge.
Residue from the spent shells consists primarily of heavy metals, including copper, which is toxic to marine life, Robertus said.
“It's pretty clear that these are pollutants; the key question is whether the levels in the water are significant,” he said.
Five years ago, the state Coastal Commission required SeaWorld to monitor the water and sediment in Mission Bay to determine if the fireworks affected the environment.
No adverse effects have been detected, SeaWorld officials said.
But in June, Coastkeeper notified SeaWorld that it intended to file a lawsuit to force the park to apply for a discharge permit with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
In response, SeaWorld suspended its fireworks shows and agreed to apply for the permit.
According to Coastkeeper's notice of intent to sue, its officials are worried about hazardous compounds found in fireworks, which can include perchlorate salts, arsenic, chromium, copper, strontium, mercury, cadmium, lead and zinc.
“Of particular concern are arsenic, mercury and lead. These metals are extremely poisonous to human and marine life and can lead to serious long-term illnesses such as cancer,” the document states.
SeaWorld officials said their fireworks contain only the salts and copper and not the other toxins listed by Coastkeeper.
After each fireworks show, SeaWorld litter crews motor into the bay to pick up paper in the water left from the exploded shells. The next morning, crews also clean the shoreline in front of SeaWorld and across the bay on Fiesta Island, Koontz said.
Had Coastkeeper not intervened, the shows would have continued nightly until Sept. 4. Koontz said he has fielded about a dozen phone calls and e-mails from local residents disappointed that SeaWorld has stopped its displays.
“We never asked for the cancellation of the fireworks,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director for Coastkeeper. “We just want to make sure they are used responsibly.”