WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — President Donald Trump applauded the return of fireworks at Mount Rushmore in 2020. The display took place for 12 years, but was halted in 2009 because of the Black Hills pine beetle infestation, which raised forest fire concerns.
“I said, ‘you mean we can’t have fireworks because of the environment?’ ‘Yeah, environmental reasons.’ I said ‘what can burn? It’s stone. You know, it’s stone.’ So, nobody knew why, they just said environmental reasons,” Trump said.
The environmental concerns found after the display ended had nothing to do with the stone of the mountain or burning. As KELOLAND Investigates first reported, a federal investigation found the fireworks were filling the water around Mt. Rushmore with a toxic chemical.
The U.S. Geological Survey began testing the water at South Dakota’s famous faces and found high concentrations of a chemical called perchlorate in the groundwater and streams.
“Perchlorate is a common component in rocket fuels, fireworks, explosives, and also a byproduct in certain nitrogen fertilizers,” USGS’ Galen Hoogestraat said in a 2016 report.
At high levels, the Centers for Disease Control says perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland.
📊 EXPLORE THE DATA YOURSELF. Scroll down in this story to see the test results from the USGS.
An EPA health advisory sets a “maximum” concentration of perchlorate at 15 micrograms per liter of water. In the study released in 2016, Hydrologists found 38 micrograms per liter in the groundwater and 54 micrograms per liter in a stream sample—270 times higher than that in samples collected outside the memorial.
“I called up our people and within about 15 minutes, we got it approved and you’re going to have your first big fireworks display at Mount Rushmore,” Trump said on Wednesday.
The President announced the decision last year on Twitter, but brought it up again this week at a signing of phase one of a trade deal between the U.S. and China.
Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and two South Dakota farmers were at the event.
“I’ll try and get out there if I can,” Trump said regarding the planned July 4th event.
In a statement to KELOLAND News last year, Mount Rushmore National Memorial officials said they are working on safe ways to continue the display.
“The National Park Service is committed to working with the State and other land management agencies, exercising our full authorities under state and federal law, to explore and develop safe and responsible options in regard to the proposal,” said Maureen McGee-Ballinger, the parks’ chief of interpretation and education.
The NPS is expected to open a period of public comments early this year.
According to the NPS, they are currently in step 2 of 8 for planning, which is to refine alternatives. The next step is listed as “identify environmental impacts and select preferred alternative.”