Coastal Enviro Group Sues To Stop John Morris' July 3 "Big Bang" Fireworks, Alleges Toxic Fallout Into Alamitos Bay And Ocean, Says He Needs Permit But Acknowledges Gov't Bodies Failed To Pursue Issues Before It Filed Suit
(Nov. 25, 2021) -- The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, a San Diego based non-profit has filed a federal court lawsuit (under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act) alleging the July 3 "Big Bang on the Bay" fireworks display presented by John Morris and his Naples Restaurant Group, LLC violated federal water protection laws, sending fireworks fallout containing to toxic chemicals into Alamitos Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
It alleges Mr. Morris and his restaurant don't have a NPDES ("National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System") permit 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.
In addition to notifying Mr. Morris and his restaurant, the group's complaint says it also notified he 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..."
"California is a state authorized by the EPA to issue NPDES permits...[T]he State Board is charged with regulating pollutants to protect California’s water resources. Cal. Water Code § 13001..." the complaint alleges. (Four of the five incumbent members of the State Water Resources Control Board were appointed or reappointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.)
Two of CA's nine Regional Water Boards have issued permits regulating fireworks, but Region 4 -- the Regional [Water] Board with jurisdiction over defendants’ discharges -- hasn't issued a general NPDES for the discharge of fireworks. "The Defendants have not been granted an individual NPDES permit for their discharge of pollutants from the Big Bang on the Bay fireworks event," the federal complaint states. (Gov. Newsom appointed the Los Angeles Region's Water Quality Control Board seven members; the regional agency's website says one member awaiting state Senate confirmation, Dr. Michael Mendez, is a Long Beach resident.) .
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In response to an initial notice by the environmental group and under an agreement with the group, Mr. Morris's Big Bang on the Bay has monitored its discharge of fireworks since 2015.
On "information and belief," the environmental group's Nov. 23, 2021 complaint alleges defendants [Mr. Morris and his restaurant] have not applied for an NPDES permit." The group's federal lawsuit doesn't name any of the unresponsive government entitles as co-defendants. It seeks:
The complaint says at least two of the plaintiff environmental group's members "live near Alamitos Bay and recreate in or around the Bay."
The annual event has a local charitable beneficiary, Children Today, not named as a lawsuit defendant. It draws large crowds (who assemble without charge in the immediate area) and has drawn plaudits from LBREPORT.com columnist Doug Krikorian.
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 CA Coastal Commission LB staff and Long Beach City Hall's Special Events Office failed to apply local requirements in allowing the July 3 fireworks (LBREPORT.com coverage here.)
"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 [emphasis in original] to protect any fallen birds from being trampled."
Ms. Cantrell and Ms. Christensen said a LB Coastal Commission staffer told them the fireworks will be 'biodegradable' to which they responded: "no one has been able to explain what that means. We repeat the statement of a leading fireworks manufacturer that there is no such thing as a climate-neutral firework."
During the July 3, 2021 event, Ms. Cantrell (an octogenarian who's spent decades advocating environmental and wildlife causes) walked through the area's trees with Ann Christensen and a small group of others. The day after, Ms. Cantrell emailed a supporter:
"It was s 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 fell out during the 30 minutes of constant light and deafening noise."
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...
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