Get our newsletters
Guest Opinion

Help our undersea friends by ending fireworks on the Delaware River


It has come to my attention that there is a plan for a fireworks display to occur every weekend from mid-May through September. On the surface, this reads like a nice idea, but if one is to think beyond the entertainment value, there are some significant problems with this plan.

Fireworks are a loud, and somewhat intermittent form of sound that can and will have an impact on many lifeforms both above and below the waters of the Delaware, which is the last, free flowing (un-dammed) river east of the Mississippi and the primary source of drinking water for 15 million people.

The impact of noise on bird life, including reproduction and post-reproduction activities, has been definitively demonstrated in North America as well as in other areas of the world. This research has indicated that noise from human disturbances has a direct and negative impact on bird song, which is vital for the establishment of breeding territories, as well as the successful attraction of a mate, along with negative and destructive impacts on nesting itself, the number of eggs laid and successfully hatched, and contributing to lessened first-year survival of the fledglings. In other words, the more noise birds have to contend with, the less they can carry on their lives and create a new generation of birds.

Considering that the Audubon Society recently indicated that its research shows the loss of more than 3 billion birds in North America alone, the prospect of having another form of destructive sound emanate in an area where there are decades of sightings of bird nesting along the banks of this river is alarming indeed.

Birds have a great deal to contend with already, problems caused by human beings, including habitat loss and degradation, overdevelopment, and pollution. They do not need a new obstacle during the critical times of insuring there is another generation of birds who will live after them.

In addition, noise has a direct impact on creatures that live underwater. Research done in Europe and in North America has been ongoing for decades. Although a significant quantity of that research is done on and below the open seas regarding the impact of noise on cetaceans and related species, there has been research done regarding lifeforms in non-sea waters.

The article “Noise Pollution Also Threatens Fish,” by Dr. Mary Bates in October 2012, appeared in the American Association for the Advancement of Science publication. It begins with the quote “Man-made noise is a growing threat to wildlife” and goes on to quote Dr. Arthur Popper in a speech he gave to the International Congress of Neuroethology, also in 2012, where he reported on his own research involving man-made noise and many species of fish.

Since then, more research clearly indicates the dangers of noise generated both in the water, and above it.

Noise is not just an annoyance: it can radically alter the lives of non-humans, and almost always for the worse. It is not benign.

We at BEA, along with other local, regional and national environmental organizations did not fight threats to the Delaware River all these years for something as seemingly innocent as this to occur.

If you do not know, this river is also the home to several endangered fish species, with two — the American shad and the critically endangered ancient Atlantic Sturgeon — being federally protected.

Since they breed in this river as well, it must be asked: Has your organization checked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as to potential negative impacts to these two protected fish? If there is the chance of harm, the Endangered Species Act might be relevant here.

Please rethink this plan. There must be ways to maximize tourism without creating another potential disaster for those that do not pay taxes, do not vote, and have no voice in the matter.

Sharon Furlong is a spokeswoman for Bucks Environmental Action.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.