A Shawsheen Road woman said she was surprised at how quickly she heard about plans for a special town meeting to revisit the article she successfully amended at Annual Town Meeting last week to require Andover to use fireworks made from biodegradable materials for this year’s Fourth of July fireworks.
The day after the May 2 vote, “I began hearing that the Select Board…was working towards facilitating the completion of the necessary steps to overturn the amendment,” Cindy Nasiatka said in a letter to the select board she shared with Andover News. “I do not challenge these actions. However, I write this email to address the emotional pleas to ‘save the tradition’ as posted on Facebook and to further ask you to consider this matter in its entirety.”
The issue threatening to cancel this year’s Jerry Silverman Fireworks display. The select board is scheduled to discuss options when it meets Monday at 7 p.m. Former Selectman Ted Teichert said he would collect signatures to call a special town meeting, pending the outcome of that discussion.
Andover officials have given a variety of reasons why they can’t implement the amended article, which approved $14,000 for the display, including no U.S. provider currently offers fully biodegradable fireworks and that using the more environmentally friendly pyrotechnics would result in a less-impressive display.
Nasiatka made arguments about the environmental impacts of the display, as well as the toll on people living in the neighborhoods around Andover High School. Last year was the first time plastic debris rained on her home and others during the display, leaving homeowners to pick up the mess. Nasiatka said she is still finding pieces of plastic.
“At that time, I, as a homeowner in the area, brought this to the attention of the town Public Works department,” Nasiatka said in her. “Although the ball field was ‘cleaned up’ by the town, the plastic in surrounding areas (undoubtedly in the wetlands and AVIS trails as well) was left for residents to clean up themselves. In places the plastic is still present almost 1 year later with no sign of biodegrading. Just yesterday, I found more plastic shards in my flower gardens as I prepare them for spring.”
Photo: Cindy Nasiatka (Screenshot/Andover TV)
Dear Select Board of Andover,
You are aware: The town of Andover has traditionally located their Fourth of July Fireworks event at the Andover High School baseball field. The fireworks are exploded over bordering wetlands, power lines and transformers, and private residents’ homes. Despite concerns from residents regarding burned canopies, sun umbrellas, pieces of debris hitting onlookers on their heads, and littered private property left for homeowners to tend to themselves, the town continues to hold the event in this location.
Regarding the fireworks event held last year (2022), there was a change in the aftermath ‘debris field’; Instead of paper mâché casings and charred cardboard and ash, there were hundreds of thousands of shards of plastic that covered the fields and surrounding areas. At that time, I, as a homeowner in the area, brought this to the attention of the town Public Works department. Although the ball field was ‘cleaned up’ by the town, the plastic in surrounding areas (undoubtedly in the wetlands and AVIS trails as well) was left for residents to clean up themselves. In places the plastic is still present almost 1 year later with no sign of biodegrading. Just yesterday, I found more plastic shards in my flower gardens as I prepare them for spring.
Aside from differing views on the environmental risks, almost everyone who has attended the fireworks can agree that the location, in front of the high school, over homes and wetlands…. is a really bad idea!
On May 2nd, 2023, at the annual Town Meeting for Andover –an amendment to Article 23 – specifying that the fireworks funded with taxpayers funds would be restricted to products that incorporate eco-friendly biodegradable packaging – passed by a majority vote and in accordance with the By-Laws. The town of Andover has made clear its position of stewardship for the environment.
The very next day, I began hearing that the Select Board (with support of those with same-interests) was working towards facilitating the completion of the necessary steps to overturn the amendment. A Select Board meeting on Monday is scheduled to discuss the matter and a well-known townsman has begun to collect signatures for a Special Town Meeting. I understand this is legal and in accordance with the By-Laws. I do not challenge these actions. However, I write this email to address the emotional pleas to ‘save the tradition’ as posted in Facebook and to further ask you to consider this matter in its entirety.
The arguments that I have become aware of to support overturning the amendment and keeping the fireworks as they have been in the past are:
· There is not enough time to make a change before this year’s events
· There are NO eco-friendly biodegradable fireworks available
· The contract with the vendor was already signed for three years
· The vendor uses fireworks made in China and had to order them already
· The Town’s tradition should not be changed since it has existed this way for many years
For your consideration ahead of the Select Board Meeting this Monday:
With a little research into the growing volumes of literature on the matter, one can see the reality of environmental damage being done. Enhancements made in the recent manufacturing of fireworks have outgrown current regulations: The US Consumer Product Safety Commission amendment dated 02/02/2017 does not address the addition of plastic tube containers which enhance the sounds during a
display* making the event ‘so much more exciting’…. Nor does it prohibit use of foreign manufactured devices in which levels of toxic heavy metals used to enhance colors are limited**.
*It is important to note that damage to hearing in humans occurs with decibels greater than 85. Fireworks ‘booms’ are over 175 decibels. Not only humans but animals are deeply harmed. (After such research, Hampton NH forbid fireworks for the entire year of 2022 because of the detriment to the nesting plovers.) The polluting effect of plastic has been widely studied by environmentalists and several countries have already disallowed the use of conventional fireworks for the detrimental effects they are causing, especially with the increase in microplastic pollutants.
**Fireworks purchased outside the US (i.e., China and Mexico) are ostensibly not subject to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission standards (2017 amendment). China uses mercury in their fireworks – outlawed in the US manufacturing of fireworks.
As a resident of Andover and a steward of the environment, I humbly ask you to weigh the future of our environment and the safety and concern for the residents over emotionality.
It can no longer be OK to explode toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and plastic pollutants over wetlands, AVIS trails, private properties, power lines and transformers, with no controls for a complete clean-up.
The time for a change is now.
While challenging tradition is always difficult, it is often necessary and urgent for our planet: The elimination of asbestos insulation in new homes and businesses, laws regarding the disposal of mercury and lead, regulations around cigarettes and advertising, and so much more demonstrate that progress can and must be made.
While Fireworks continue to be a celebrated way of acknowledging events in the US, it is time to take a deep dive as to what is being dumped into the environment.
Alternative light shows are being used all over the world, and it may be time to make a change. Is it too late to consider a light show? How about moving the toxic event to a location that can be completely controlled with regards to clean-up? Surely there are other alternatives beyond having exactly what we had last year.