Study: Fireworks didn’t pollute the lake |

Study: Fireworks didn’t pollute the lake

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Tests show fireworks exploded over Lake Tahoe did not taint the supplies of the water company closest to the barge where rockets were launched.

Lakeside Park Water Association, which draws from the lake and provides drinking water for motels near Stateline, reported samples taken before and after the display contained no perchlorate, according to Bob Loding, operator of the business.

Perchlorate, a chemical in fireworks that creates controlled explosions, can be hazardous to humans if it is consumed in large amounts over a long period of time. The chemical compound consists of one chlorine and four oxygen molecules.

“It doesn’t look like there’s a water quality problem as far as human health,” said Mary Fiore-Wagner, environmental scientist at Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “We don’t have any data on aquatic toxicity. The chemical can be hazardous to humans, aquatic organisms and wildlife.”

Water samples this year and last also showed fireworks did not contribute phosphorous or significant amounts of nitrogen to the lake. Scientists who study Tahoe say both chemicals play a role in the declining clarity of the lake, which is clouding at a rate of more than a foot each year.

“We are glad to see nothing showed up (at Lakeside),” said Rita Whitney, a hydrologist at Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “Hopefully, this will put to rest any complaints about what fireworks are doing to the lake.”

The TRPA, Lahontan and Lakeside Park each sampled water before and after the fireworks display. Fiore-Wagner said Lahontan may take samples after the Labor Day weekend display is launched.

“Fireworks are adding some perchlorate to the lake, but it’s done twice a year for about 45 minutes,” Fiore-Wagner said. “We have to identify priorities in a basin where development occurs May 1 to Oct. 15. We may actually take samples again in September.”

Last year, water samples collected after the display showed a spike of perchlorate at 63 parts per billion. This year, samples tested at a level of 24 parts per billion.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.