The week of the Fourth of July has an upturn in recreational usage of New Hampshire’s lakes, especially when it coincides with a heat wave as much of the state is experiencing this year. And with increased recreation as well as the holiday, fireworks become a part of lakeside festivities.
Every year around this time LPC gets a number of calls from people concerned about fireworks on lakes disturbing the loons and jeopardizing nesting success. Although we have had a few cases where fireworks were deemed to be the possible cause of a nest failure, for the most part the loons tolerate the Independence Day festivities pretty well. Case in point is the nest on the Loon Cam last night. Despite a constant barrage of bangs and booms for upwards of two hours, the loon on the nest seemed more agitated by the evening insects than what was going on across the cove.
Within the environmental community, the greater concern is toxic contaminants introduced to New Hampshire waterbodies. Fireworks contain perchlorate, which can disrupt the synthesis of thyroid hormones, and heavy metals such as lead, chromium, manganese and cadmium. Recent studies show high levels of perchlorate and heavy metals in the air and water during and directly after some fireworks displays, sometimes exceeding EPA standards and in one case persisting in the water for up to three weeks.
Within the context of everything else that gets dumped into our lakes, it is a small fraction of a percent of the whole. But we can also say that it is one more piece of straw we’re adding to the camel’s back. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recommends that, if you must use fireworks on a lake, don’t launch them from a dock or on the edge of the shore. Choose a launch site set back from the shore and clean up any remaining debris. And check with your town. Most New Hampshire towns allow class B fireworks but quite a few have restrictions on their use.