MIDDLE ISLAND, NY – On Friday, September 27, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker joined Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and environmental advocates at Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island for the bill signing for to prohibit the intentional release of helium balloons in Suffolk County. Now signed by County Executive Bellone, the law, sponsored by Legislator Anker, will go into effect within 90 days.
“Through research and data, we know that the release of balloons has a devastating effect on our sea life. We live on an island and the majority of the balloons end up in our surface waters and on our beaches. Balloons become beach litter or entangled in boat motors that directly impact Long Island’s $4 billion ocean-related tourism industry,” said Legislator Sarah Anker.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), balloon debris can be easily mistaken for food and ingested by animals, and balloons with ribbons can entangle wildlife. Balloon debris can also have an economic impact on communities by contributing to dirty beaches, and can cause power outages when entangled with power lines.
“The beaches in my legislative district, that includes the coastline from Mount Sinai to Wading River, are greatly impacted by environmental pollution, in particular plastics and balloons. It’s time we take responsibility for keeping our oceans clean and become better stewards of our environment,” said Legislator Anker.
The law also requires businesses and organizations that sell helium balloons to display a sign at the point-of-sale stating “IT IS UNLAWFUL TO RELEASE HELIUM OR LIGHTER-THAN-AIR GAS BALLOONS IN SUFFOLK COUNTY.”
“We know that what goes up must come down. And while releasing balloons may seem like a fun way to celebrate, when balloons comes down, they come down as litter,” said County Executive Bellone. “This legislation will go a long way in raising awareness about the dangers balloons pose to both our waterways and marine life, along with helping to ensure our oceans and beaches are clean for everyone to enjoy.”
The fines for intentional balloon release start at $500 for the first violation, $750 for the second violation, $1000 for the third violation, and thereafter. Prior to this resolution, Chapter 310 of the Suffolk County Code allowed the release of up to 25 balloons.
For more information please call Legislator Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.