Long Beach’s annual Big Bang on the Bay fireworks show will continue as is after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by an environmental group that alleged organizers were illegally polluting Alamitos Bay with their event.
Judge Mark C. Scarsi this week chose to dismiss the case against John Morris and the entity Naples Restaurant Group, which operates Boathouse on the Bay, ruling that the evidence offered by Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF), a group of environmentalists dedicated to protecting California’s coasts, was not enough to prove continuous and ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act by event organizers.
“A single post-complaint violation resulting from a rare, unexpected occurrence fails to demonstrate an ongoing violation,” Scarsi wrote in his verdict. CERF “has not demonstrated an adequate likelihood that a low break will recur during Defendants’ anticipated future fireworks show.”
This case is dismissed without prejudice, meaning CERF attorneys could refile the case again in the future. CERF attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In January, Morris and CERF attorneys met in court for a bench trial to decide the future of the Big Bang on the Bay event. The trial held serious implications for other fireworks shows produced over bodies of water in Long Beach or neighboring regions.
During the trial, CERF attorneys alleged that Morris had failed to obtain proper federal permits required each year to discharge fireworks from a barge in Alamitos Bay for the annual Big Bang on the Bay. Because of that, CERF attorneys argued, the show has been illegally polluting the nearby water, putting Morris in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Additionally, CERF attorneys used the 2022 Big Bang on the Bay event as evidence, showing video footage of a firework appearing to break at a low altitude, causing firework discharge to land in the water.
Morris, meanwhile, maintained that he worked with agencies in Long Beach and Los Angeles County each year to get the proper permits to put on the fireworks show.
Morris also argued that his organization had already implemented new steps in 2016, in accordance with the conditions CERF has previously requested from other producers of fireworks shows over water, to make sure Alamitos Bay wasn’t being negatively affected.
“We do more in Alamitos Bay in terms of testing the conditions of the water than what Sea World does,” Morris told the Post in January.
Although Scarsi found there was sufficient evidence to prove discharge from the Big Bang on the Bay fireworks show in 2022 had landed in Alamitos Bay—the result of a firework malfunction—and that as a result the organizers had violated the Clean Water Act, he said that was not enough to show this was a continuous problem or that it may happen again in the future.
“The 2022 point source discharge of pollutants occurred not by dint of the ordinary operation of a firework but from an unexpected, malfunctioning firework breaking exceptionally low—just 10 feet above the mortar,” Scarsi said.
Morris launched the first Big Bang on the Bay event back in 2011 after the city stopped putting on Fourth of July fireworks shows at Veterans Stadium.
The event has served as a fundraiser for the last decade, with the proceeds going to Children Today, a charity that provides trauma-informed child development and family support services.
Following the decision, Morris said he felt “vindicated” and was looking forward to putting on this year’s Big Bang on the Bay event.
“This coming Big Bang is going to be the biggest one yet,” Morris said. “After all that s–t we went through, we gotta make it big now.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct when the first Big Bang on the Bay event was held.
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