Susan Hay of Environment Haliburton! asked County councillors at their May 10 meeting to consider banning all personal fireworks displays, including their sale, in the Highlands.

The EH! president, who is a retired registered nurse, told council she realizes such a ban may not be possible for this summer but could be considered for the summer of 2024.

She added other considerations could include allowing only silent fireworks, or not setting them off in May when birds are migrating or their young hatching.

During a power-point presentation, Hay outlined, “the unintended and harmful consequences of fireworks” and asked “are they worth it?”

She said they are a nuisance to people who love peace and quiet, and are a health hazard for humans, wildlife, and the environment.

Hay, who has lived in Dysart et al for almost a decade with husband Keith, said the topic is on the agenda of their cottage association annual general meeting every year, “mainly because many folks find them so annoying.”

She said they are toxic, put aquatic health at risk, cause extreme stress in birds, wildlife and pets, reduce quality of life for people, and add to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

She added they emit “absurdly” high amounts of chemicals such as perchlorate, strontium, copper, titanium, barium, rubidium, cadmium, chlorine, and lead. She provided sources as to how these substances and heavy metals can irritate lungs and eyes, are carcinogens, and have other harmful effects. She noted most fireworks are imported from China, without restrictions on materials being used.

Hay added they can be a fire hazard. “If our ecosystem is dry, a stray spark could cause a house fire or set fire to a tree, starting a wildfire.” She said American sources suggest 20,000 to 30,000 fires are started every year due to fireworks.

When it comes to aquatic health, she said studies had shown the toxins accumulate in fish and are digested by loons. It would be the same for people eating fish, she suggested.

She noted the noise can create “blind panic” in birds, wildlife and pets that lead to serious injury, and even death. One-fifth of companion animal disappearances are linked to fireworks and storms, she said.

Hay mentioned that the City of Brampton had banned fireworks and sales and many cities had swapped out for low-noise fireworks.

“Our County is in the midst of a climate crisis and we need to be more creative in our celebrations so that we aren’t damaging ourselves, our human and animal neighbours, and our ecosystem,” she said.

Warden Liz Danielsen thanked Hay for the “good, solid information.” She noted all four townships in the County had “at least” restricted the times that people can set off fireworks, mostly in and around long weekends in summer.

However, she said the suggestion they look at alternate forms of fireworks is a good one. She also wondered if individual towns could discuss public displays in parks, for example, so toxins do not enter lakes. She also suggested getting word out via social media.

Coun. Bob Carter asked CAO Mike Rutter if they could actually ban the sale. Rutter said he had not looked into it, but if the City of Brampton had been able to do so, it must be possible.

The City of Brampton amended its bylaw to immediately prohibit the use and sale of fireworks in 2022. The ban relates to personal fireworks. The film industry and city-run events were excluded from the ban.

Carter said in Minden Hills, they have gone to a permit system.

He said if caught without a permit, requiring the fire department to attend, people are charged for the call-out.

He added if banned, the tricky part would be the ability of the County or townships to police it.

“The number of fireworks going off every Saturday night is very difficult to control.”

Hay retorted if there was a full ban in effect, it would be easier to nab the culprits.

Council received Hay’s delegation as information.

Honouring Tim Casey

The Haliburton County Public Library Board, at its May 10 meeting, paid tribute to Robert ‘Tim’ Casey. Casey passed away April 25.

CEO Chris Stephenson and his leadership team said Casey became a library employee on January 19, 2022.

“Tim delivered books and other materials around the County as our library courier. In January 2023, Tim became a (board) member, supporting and serving the library in a new way.

“He will be missed by all those he worked with, especially as he made us laugh or smile each time we saw him,” Stephenson said.

“Thank you to the many people who chose to support HCPL in memory of Tim, an option that was proposed by his family as an expression of sympathy. The funds donated will go towards vinyl branding on the new courier van we expect to receive this summer.