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article imageOp-Ed: Trump's fireworks display over Mt. Rushmore another dumb idea

By Karen Graham     Jun 24, 2020 in Politics
Abnormally dry conditions and a persistent risk of summer wildfires in the Black Hills of South Dakota make the fireworks display planned for July 3 at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial a totally unnecessary, and potentially dangerous event.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, is looking forward to President Donald Trump's visit to Mount Rushmore on July 3, this year. The planned fireworks display will be a first - since the annual event was halted in 2009.
Trump has said he got this year's fireworks display approved. "For 20 years or something it hasn’t been allowed for environmental reasons," Trump said on a podcast back in May, per The Hill. "Anyway, I got it approved so I’m going to go there on July 3 and they’re going to have the big fireworks," he added.
Amazingly, this bit of news has been kept quiet, possibly because of the mess he has made of the coronavirus response here in the United States, but what the headlines fail to reveal is the reason why the fireworks were stopped in the first place, and if the reason was explained to the dunderhead in the Oval Office, like everything else he is told, it probably went over his head.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Aafaque (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Perchlorate contamination in the water
Resuming the pyrotechnic show is dangerous for at least two very good reasons, and both are easily explained. Let's talk about why the yearly fireworks display was stopped in 2009.
In the previous 11 massive fireworks displays that took place between 1998 and 2009 over the faces of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the fireworks explosions left perchlorate contamination all over the ground. The chemical ended up in the water supply.
Just so everyone knows - perchlorate has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage, as well as interfering with iodine uptake into the thyroid gland. Perchlorate affects only the thyroid hormone. Because it is neither stored nor metabolized, effects of perchlorate on the thyroid gland are reversible, though effects on brain development from lack of thyroid hormone in fetuses, newborns, and children are not
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Fourth of July celebration 2007. Two years later  the fireworks ce...
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Fourth of July celebration 2007. Two years later, the fireworks celebration was halted.
In 2016 - a USGS report showed that a maximum perchlorate concentration of 54 micrograms per liter was measured in stream samples at Mount Rushmore between 2011 and 2015. (Note that this was was after the fireworks displays were halted) That was about 270 times higher than in samples collected from sites outside the memorial, which were 0.2 micrograms per liter.
In the meantime, Trump's EPA had decided it might raise the limit on perchlorate to 56 micrograms per liter, almost 4 times higher than the limit of 15 proposed by the previous administration in 2009. For some reason, it was never implemented. However, on June 16, the EPA announced that they will not regulate perchlorate, period. So that decision covers both the governor's and the president's butts, doesn't it?
Fire hazard - big time
During the 11 years that fireworks displays were held at Mount Rushmore, at least 20 documented wildfires were ignited by the fireworks in the middle of the wildfire season.
The ponderosa pine grows from from British Columbia southward and eastward through 16 western U.S. s...
The ponderosa pine grows from from British Columbia southward and eastward through 16 western U.S. states. Growing up, I knew this tree as a bull pine.
National Park Service
Bill Gabbert, the former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region has this to say about the president's fireworks display this year: “Burning debris, the burning embers, and unexploded shells fall into a ponderosa pine forest and ponderosa pine is extremely flammable,” said Gabbert. “Shooting fireworks over a ponderosa pine forest or any flammable vegetation is ill-advised and should not be done. Period.”
As Trump said in January when he first entertained the idea of a fireworks display, “What can burn? It's stone." But Duh, the monument is in the middle of a Ponderose=a pine forest, and ponderosa pines are the apex predator of all pine trees, meaning they are very fire-prone.
Added to the fire-prone nature of the trees, in April and May of 2020, the Black Hills fell 30 to 50 percent short of moisture for the area. As for the long-range forecast - hotter and drier-than-average conditions will continue until July. On June 4, the U.S. Drought Monitor labeled nearly all of southwestern South Dakota, including most of the Black Hills, as “abnormally dry.”
According to the U.S. Forest Service, homes and businesses in and around the town of Keystone, about three miles northeast of Mount Rushmore, have a 95 percent greater risk from wildfire than communities in all other parts of South Dakota.
I suppose, that like his perchance for huge military parades, with lots of tanks and marching soldiers, Trump also requires his huge fireworks show, and so what if he burns down a forest. It is reminiscent of Rome burning while Nero fiddled away.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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