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Environmental group: Lawsuit possible if La Jolla fireworks go on

There are “numerous legal repercussions” in store for the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation if it moves forward with its annual Fourth of July fireworks display, according to a letter from attorneys representing the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation.

Attorneys Marco Gonzalez and Livia Borak sent the letter on the group’s behalf Friday to Adam Harris, who spearheaded fundraising to save La Jolla’s event in 2009 as well as city officials, the state office of the Environmental Protection Agency, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Coastal Commission.

The letter states the summer fireworks display — that has gone on for 24 straight years — releases substantial amounts of pollution into an area of special biological significance and violates the Clean Water Act and California Water Code.

It says the fireworks group lacks National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and Coastal Development Permits, which are necessary for an event like this. Even if the Foundation decided to apply for an NPDES permit, Borak said in a phone interview Friday that the earliest it could get one would be February 2011.

“If they say they’re not going to (move forward with the fireworks) then obviously we’re not going forward with any litigation,” she said. “If they persist and show no signs of dropping it, then we could go to court and ask for its injunction.”

Reached by phone while on vacation, Adam Harris, who established the nonprofit La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation to put on the event, said he had just received the letter and had not yet thoroughly read it. He did say, however, that all plans would “absolutely” move forward for July 4.

“I will probably take a look at it and talk to the other organizers of the event and will figure out whether or not it really has any impact, but as of right now the event is going forward and nothing will stop us,” he said.

Borak said every coastal city putting on fireworks would receive a similar letter, as well as the pyrotechnic companies. The Del Mar Fairgrounds, which lies in a flood plain and next to the protected San Dieguito Lagoon, should expect one as well, she said.

When asked if she thought, given the lack of permits, that an injunction would be easily granted, Borak said, “I’m not sure that I would say easily granted, but I think that we definitely would have a strong showing for a balance of harms being in favor of having an injunction issued.”