Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how the Town will pay for the fireworks. Andover News regrets the error.
This year’s Jerry Silverman Fourth of July Fireworks will go on as scheduled after the Andover Select Board ruled its provider will use devices that comply with “the spirit” of an amendment passed by Annual Town Meeting.
The fireworks were in jeopardy of being canceled after the article approving $14,000 for the display was amended at Annual Town Meeting earlier this month to require the Town to only use fully biodegradable fireworks, reducing the environmental impact and sparing residents in the neighborhood around Andover High School from a shower of plastic debris that fell on homes after last year’s display. Town officials said they would be unable to find a pyrotechnics company that offered fireworks that were fully biodegradable.
At Monday’s meeting, Matt Shea of Pyrotecnico Northeast, which produces the show, gave the select board a crash course in fireworks construction. The problem, he said, stems from the fact that there is no industry standard for environmentally-friendly fireworks, although his company would use materials that are about 98 percent biodegradable for this year’s Andover show.
“I can tell you I can shoot shells where I know how they’re built — I have seen them built in China,” Shea said. “I know what products not to use.”
Shea said his company would not use the same devices as last year’s show, which had more plastic than previous shows and prompted the amendment to the Town Meeting article. The only plastic on the fireworks would be coverings on the wick to protect from rain, and Shea expects most debris to fall on the baseball field at Andover High School where the display is set off.
“From what I heard from the vendor tonight, [using biodegradable fireworks is] exactly what he plans to do,” select board member Chris Huntress said.
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan presented the select board with two other options to work around the amendment: canceling this year’ show or using previously-appropriated funds, including money left over from fireworks displays that were canceled during the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s just not enough time to source fully biodegradable fireworks,” he said.
After hearing Shea’s presentation, the board unanimously approved using the appropriation by Annual Town Meeting for this year’s display.
“To me, we would be in compliance with the amendment — at least the spirit of the amendment,” select board member Annie Gilbert said.
The amendment approved by Annual Town Meeting was proposed by Shawsheen Road resident Cindy Nasiatka, who made arguments about the environmental impacts of the display, as well as the toll on people living in the neighborhood. Andover officials offered a variety of reasons why they can’t implement the amended article, including no U.S. provider currently offers fully biodegradable fireworks and that using more environmentally friendly pyrotechnics would result in a less-impressive display.
Two residents spoke in favor of going on with the show.
“The high school is basically is my front yard…It’s a wonderful celebration. Occasionally I get some confetti — like a piñata,” Scott Gabriel said. “It’s a wonderful night, and I would hate to see it impacted.”
Photo: Dave Copeland/Andover News