Mistake by the Lake

A Mariner program vendor says the Gas Works fireworks show is too toxic.

There'll be no fireworks over Elliott Bay this year (due to Ivar's cancellation), and if Ben Schroeter has his way, there won't be any over Lake Union either. The local activist has filed suit to stop One Reel's Fourth of July show, arguing that the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires a review of the event's environmental impact—something the city has yet to conduct."It's likely I'm not gonna be able to stop it," concedes Schroeter, speaking via phone from his job selling programs outside Safeco Field. He noted his lack of legal expertise and the short period between his filing (June 12) and the event. "But people need to remember that this [Gas Works Park, the staging area for the event] is a remediated toxic-waste site, with 12 to 18 inches [of] dirt and a grass shield cap covering toxic chemicals. People don't understand much about toxic chemicals. I just lost a friend to brain cancer at age 43; this kind of stuff comes from toxins and pesticides. I don't think people take this seriously."Huge crowds and large machinery threaten to release the toxic chemicals, argues Schroeter, who also contends that the fireworks themselves may pose dangers to endangered salmon passing through Lake Union. "One Reel is bragging about exploding 5,000 shells over Lake Union. Has anyone looked at how this is going to affect endangered salmon? Has anyone even spoken with the National Marine Fisheries Service?"This suit follows the 2005 Friends of Gas Works Park's suit to stop One Reel's Summer Nights concert series (formerly held at Pier 62 on the downtown waterfront) there, in which a judge ruled that the city needed to conduct an environmental review. The concerts were subsequently suspended.Christopher Williams, deputy superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation, says that the city doesn't believe the event will disturb the protective cap over the toxins, and believes the event is exempt from SEPA review anyway, as the text of the law exempts one-time civic celebrations. "What makes our city vibrant is the number of civic and cultural events that people are able to go to," he says. "That would go away if we had to do a SEPA review every time someone wanted to hold an event in a park."

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