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Queen Anne's County first to ban helium balloon releases

WBAL TV Baltimore logo WBAL TV Baltimore 8/28/2019

Queen Anne's County has become the first county in Maryland to ban environmentally harmful balloon releases.

The Queen Anne's County commissioners have unanimously passed a bill to ban the release of nonbiodegradable helium balloons.

The county hopes to set an example for other jurisdictions, especially those located near water.

Queen Anne's County on the Eastern Shore now becomes the first county in Maryland to ban balloon releases. Proponents say that these balloon releases had injured and killed wildlife at an alarming rate.

"It just seemed that just about everywhere we went did see them hanging in trees, shrubbery. Everybody’s got their own story. T he problem seems to be pretty widespread," said Jay Falstad, executive director of the Queen Anne's Conservation Association.

Falstad's organization worked tirelessly to get Ordinance 19-13 passed, which bans the release of helium balloons.

"This bill does not seek to prosecute the kid that accidentally lets go of a balloon at a birthday party or something like that. This bill is geared mostly towards larger balloon releases such as those at graduation parties, weddings, gender reveal parties and that sort of thing," Falstad said.

Falstad said the main issue was the balloons and the strings that were attached to them that were literally killing wildlife.

"The balloons with these ribbons, once they’re caught in an animal, it’s a death sentence. They can’t get out the ribbons. It’s a widespread problem," Falstad said.

"Sometimes the turtles swallow them, and they’re getting endangered because of it," Aidlin said.

"I've heard about waterfowl swallowing, getting wrapped up in the stuff. I think it’s probably a good idea," resident Barbra Lynch said.

The balloon release ordinance, which provides for fines of up to $250 for deliberate violations, was introduced by Commissioner Christopher M. Corchiarino on July 9, and a hearing was held on Aug. 13. At the hearing, witnesses testified that helium balloons from the Midwest have reached the farm fields of Queen Anne’s County and that balloons released along the Atlantic Coast have ended up in the ocean in huge offshore clusters.

Falstad hopes the county can serve as an example for others.

"We hope other jurisdictions will follow. Hopefully, other states will follow because it is a widespread problem, and it needs to be addressed," Falstad said.

Those here on the Eastern Shore will have a little time to prepare, as this bill goes into effect 46 days from now.

READ MORE:Queen Anne's County first to ban helium balloon releases

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