Environmental concerns surrounding Madison’s Rhythm and Booms fireworks display have led city officials to propose an ordinance with required cleanup plans.

The show, which previously took place at Warner Park, faced concerns from local residents over the fireworks’ effects on nearby wetlands.

After noticing there was no accountability for local organizers or requirements for cleanup plans, Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, proposed an ordinance that would require permits for both the event organizer and the company running the fireworks show as well as require a cleanup plan.

A plan for picking up the debris and getting it out of the lake as soon as possible was necessary, Sharon Corrigan, Dane County Board chair, said. Madison and Dane County are working together to test the water in advance and then afterwards to make sure the lake is not being adversely impacted, she said.

Rita Kelliher, president of Madison Festivals Inc., the company running the Rhythm and Booms Festival for the second year in a row, said the county should be more concerned with other sources of lake pollution in the area.

“The number one problem with lakes in Madison is phosphorous, and everyone knows it comes from construction and farm runoff, not fireworks,” Kelliher said. 

Kelliher said the debris from the fireworks will be biodegradable, as it is made from rice paper. Once the show is finished, people will be in boats cleaning up the mess, she said. Additionally, the company will also reduce the amount of plastic being used by not using unnecessary plastic caps on fireworks, she said.

By shooting fireworks over water, environmental problems are less prevalent, Kelliher said. When fireworks are shot over land, the particles are not broken down and can go into drinking water, she said.

“The propellant that goes up with the fireworks is chlorate, so if there is an area rich in plant life, like a lake below it, then it will be broken down,” Kelliher said.

According to the proposed ordinance, there is no requirement for the use of non-perchlorate fireworks, which was recommended by the Lakes and Watershed Commission and the city Committee on the Environment.

Some people have suggested a laser show to replace the fireworks, but Kelliher said she does not see that happening in the near future.

“I don’t think the majority of people would be interested in seeing a laser show. Fireworks have been a tradition since the 1600s,” Kelliher said. “You don’t feel the vibrations or the booms with lasers.”

If the ordinance passes and is enacted by June 17, there will be fines and penalties for those who do not comply with it, including Rhythm & Booms. Kelliher said the company already has a cleanup plan set so it will not face any difficulties.

Rummel and Alds. Lisa Subeck, District 1, and Ledell Zellers, District 2, will introduce the proposed ordinance to Common Council Tuesday.