After the ooh and the ahh, the ugh and the blah; cleaning up the mess left by fireworks

It’s a beautiful disaster.

Fourth of July fun leaves a fifth of July mess.

Mandi Thorne sees it first-hand every year.

“It is a single-use mentality,” she said. “People have fireworks for their immediate need and then they don’t think about it leaving their hand. The fourth of July is a great example of that human habit and consumer behavior.”

Thorne is organizing a Fifth of July beach clean-up from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Purdy Spit, a popular party spot, to get rid of all the waste left over from the fireworks used the day before.

A crew from the state Parks and Recreation Department will bring a dump truck to help gather all the waste.

Thorne is a Gig Harbor resident who works at Rainier Apparel, an eco-friendly clothing store. She has held this cleanup for the past two years. Last year, she and her helpers gathered 300 pounds of fireworks material from the beach in just two hours.

And it’s not just on the holiday. Thorne says she visits the beach every week, and finds leftover fireworks material every time.

“It is still one of the main items I pick up at the beach every single week,” Thorne said. “There are plastic bottle rockets, little rocket fins, mortars.”

Fireworks remnants, generally made of cardboard, will dissolve in time. But they can also contain trace amounts of propellants, like potassium nitrate or ammonium perchlorate, or the heavy metals that provide the burst of color, such as strontium, aluminum, copper, rubidium and cadmium. These can leech into water and soil, and into the marine food chain.

Thorne said it is fortunate that there will be a very low tide at 1 p.m. on July 5, which will expose more beach..

“My hope is by scheduling it this late we can get a lot of that stuff that settles on the bottom of our ocean floor,” She said.

Thorne feels participating in Fourth of July celebrations on the beach is fine, but if one is part of the litter, they should be part of the cleaning as well.

“You cannot believe a human being would do something like leaving that destructive mark behind and think it is okay,” She said.

This is a nationwide issue, Thorne said.

In a short time beaches all across the country accumulate tons of firework material in a matter of hours, polluting the ocean and affecting the environment.

“At this clean up you can see how quickly in such a short amount of time that so much destruction can take place by just an inkling of a small group of people in one spot,” Thorne said. “Then if you think about how big the problem is all over, in our state, country, and now it is all in our oceans. It is unfortunate but an eye-opening experience.”

The firework material affects the sea creatures as well.

“The firework material gets mixed in with the seaweed,” Thorne said. “Our lovely sea creatures are again faced with another foreign object in their food chain.”

Fireworks are not the only material left over from Fourth of July. Last year Thorne said a mattress and car seat were also found at the beach.

“It gets weird,” Thorne said. “I don’t know, human behavior is quite interesting.”